BETHLEHEM IN SPAIN
A Spanish Nativity scene is called a Belén. This word means Bethlehem, because a Spanish Christmas scene includes the entire town of Bethlehem and what often looks like all of Judea. In addition to angels and shepherds and sheep, there are farmers with their plows, hunters with strings of game, washerwomen washing and bakers baking. There are caves and houses and temples, rocks and streams and mountains. Off in the distance, there are the Magi on their camels, and sometimes you will see the soldiers of Herod, ominously advancing with their swords drawn. All the while, children like small lambs dance through the scenes, bringing their offerings to the Child, the Niño, who sleeps in a straw-filled manger under the gaze of his adoring Mother and the vigilant St. Joseph.
The tradition is a very old one. While St. Francis is usually credited with having created the first Nativity scene in Greccio, Italy in 1223, he himself was probably inspired by an earlier tradition of dramatizations of important Mysteries of the Faith. But St. Francis’ original modest Nativity scene underwent many changes, both in Italy and in Spain, to give us the extravaganza of art, culture and faith that can now be seen every Christmas throughout Spain.
Spanish Nativity.com brings you this tradition. Learn its history and significance, and how modern Spaniards have built on this heritage. See contemporary artisan producers of figures and read suggestions from Spanish collectors and builders of scenes. Get a glimpse of the towns where the figures are created, and see how Spain relives the wonderful moment when “the Word leapt down” and changed all human life forever.