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Vatican's Nativity Scene 2023 | Celebrating the first Christmas Manger

Vatican TicketsNativity Scene

What is a Nativity Scene?

A nativity scene is a depiction of the night of Jesus' birth as described in Matthew and Luke's Gospels. Nativities may take the form of paintings, miniatures, interactive exhibits, or sculptures, but they all feature the same components: the Baby Jesus in a manger, mother Mary; his earthly father, Joseph; shepherds; angels; various barn animals; a star; and, occasionally, three wise men bearing presents.

Nativity Scenes at the Vatican

Every year, the Vatican City also decks up with lights and ornaments for Christmas. The Nativity scene and the Christmas Tree tend to take center stage. The tradition started at the Vatican in 1982 thanks to Pope John Paul II, who maintained that these portrayals were “a sign of faith in God.”

The creche is put on display in the Advent season — four weeks of preparation leading up to Christmas. However, baby Jesus only makes an appearance in the manger on Christmas Eve. The scene is taken down on the day of the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, i.e. the 12th day of Christmas, in early January. The Vatican Christmas Eve mass at St. Peter's Basilica is the world's most-watched Christmas service. The Pope's Urbi et Orbi, a Christmas Day discourse and blessing, features multilingual greetings to connect with people worldwide celebrating the occasion.

Vatican Nativity 2023

Vatican Nativity

The Vatican's 2023 Nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square honors St. Francis of Assisi's 800th anniversary. Crafted by sculptor Antonio Cantone, it features life-sized terracotta figures of Mary, Joseph, and St. Francis. The scene mirrors Greccio's historical setting, complemented by a replica fresco from the Chapel of the Nativity.
The 91 ft. Christmas tree, adorned with nursery-grown edelweiss, accompanies this sacred display. Both symbolize hope and grace throughout the Christmas season until January 7, 2024. Crafted from sustainable cedar wood, the crib, resembling a Grotto, houses the Holy Family, surrounded by artisans, paying homage to traditional craftsmen from Greccio.

Brief History of Nativity Scenes at the Vatican

The Vatican Nativity, which is located in Saint Peter's Square, is a recent addition. Pope John Paul II initiated it in 1982. The same figures were utilized for 30 years, but every Christmas, the Vatican paid for a new scene. Archbishop Vigan was the one who approached Pope Benedict about the annual crèche expenditures in 2011. The annual costs of constructing the scenario amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars. The concept of having a nativity given from various regions of Italy was then proposed, and in 2012, this project began.

Prominent Nativity Scenes at the Vatican

Vatican Nativity

2012: The year’s nativity was donated by Basilicata. New figures were used in this year’s nativity scene.

2013: Naples donated this year’s nativity. This was Pope Francis’ first Nativity.

2014: This year’s nativity was donated by Verona and it was known for being especially gorgeous by the night.

2015: Trento donated this year’s nativity. The figurines were dressed in Trento clothing, and the structures were designed in the same style as the city.

2016: This year’s nativity was donated by Malta. The many earthquakes of the year made into the nativities across Italy including the Vatican nativity.

Vatican Nativity

2017: Naples donated the Vatican nativity of 2017. With a buff naked person and a dead arm dangling off a stretcher, this nativity, which was supposed to represent tangible actions of kindness, sparked a lot of controversies.

2018: This year’s nativity was donated by Veneto. The statues of this year’s nativity are conventional in style and well done, despite being made of sand.

2019: Trento was responsible for this year’s nativity. They included traditional clothing and architecture once again. They took it a step further by integrating some actual residents.

2020: This year’s nativity was contributed by Abruzzo. The elaborate nativity set consisted of 54 pieces. However, the Vatican’s Nativity 2020 scene prompted much criticism for its ‘Back to the Future’ theme. 

Vatican Nativity

2021: A gift from Peru, the Nativity scene in St. Peter's Square featured llamas and superfood for Baby Jesus, representing the Chopcca Nation's traditional manger scene from the Huancavelica region.

2022: Focused on sustainability, the 2022 Nativity Scene displayed hand-carved figures without cutting down trees. The 30-meter white fir tree, sourced from Rosello, Abruzzi, stood tall in St. Peter's Square, symbolizing solidarity and was showcased inside due to inclement weather.

2023: The Vatican's Nativity scene honored St. Francis of Assisi's 800th anniversary. Life-sized terracotta figures, alongside a 25-meter Christmas tree adorned with edelweiss, symbolized hope in St. Peter's Square until January 7, 2024.




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