The annual celebration of Jesus’ birth in a manger at night in Bethlehem is commemorated with the display of the “manger scene” in churches, homes and yards across the world.

The manger scene will have the Baby Jesus at the center with His Mother Mary and the loving St. Joseph onlooking in awe. The scene is typically set in a stable with straw on the floor with barnyard animals surrounding. Also at the scene are the shepherds from the surrounding area and the Magi who followed the star to the site of Jesus birth.

The manager scene is said to have originated on Christmas Eve in 1223 when St. Francis of Assisi preached in a cave outside the Italian city of Greccio. The scene is grounded in accounts of Jesus’ birth in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. In front of the temporary altar in the Italian cave where St. Francis preached that night, the local people helped St. Francis erect a hay-filled manger sheltering images of the Holy Family. St. Francis had obtained permission from Pope Honorious III to set up the manger scene in order to do something “for the kindling of devotion” to the birth of Christ after a pilgrimage that St. Francis took to the Holy Land a couple of years prior. The Franciscan Order continued the tradition and established the practice of having the scene of Jesus’ birth re-enacted with live actors and animals in the manger. The popularity of the depiction of the manger scene was solidified in 1291, when Pope Nicholas IV, the first Franciscan pope, had a permanent Nativity scene built at Santa Maria Maggiore, the largest church dedicated to the Virgin Mary in Rome. The practice spread worldwide from there and now it would be uncommon to not see a manger scene in a Catholic Church at Christmas. The peaceful scene is also found in the homes and yards of people as part of the decorations for Christmas.

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Encyclopedia Britannica –

U.S. Catholic. Manning, Kathleen, published November 12, 2012.