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The History of Nativity Plays
Traditional games are among the most popular traditions associated with Christmas. For example, in England, it is traditional for primary school children to play a Christmas play.
What is the Birth Game?
The word ‘nativity’ comes from the Latin word ‘natal’ which means birth.
Essentially, the Nativity scene is one that re-enacts the scene of Jesus Christ’s birth in the stable. His actors recount the details of Jesus’ birth, such as the visit of the shepherds and the Three Wise Men. Children play the main roles of Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds and the Wise Men.
St. Francis of Assisi and the First Pyramid Statue
St. Francis of Assisi is widely credited with creating the first Nativity scene in Italy around 1223. What led St. Francis to come up with the idea to bring the entire nativity scene to life is real. Widespread illiteracy prevents people from reading the Bible themselves. Therefore, even though they are Christians, they still cannot read the Christmas story in the Bible themselves. Another stumbling block was the fact that Latin was the predominant language used for worship in the churches at that time. A language they do not understand.
It was to address this lacuna that St. Francis developed a novel, and until now untried, idea. It’s not enough to just tell people the story of the first Christmas. He wanted to show them how it would have happened on the very day of Jesus’ birth. In this end, he organized the birth scene, complete with live animals, cattle feed and some grass. He looked to the local villagers to portray the important roles played by Mary and Joseph and the Shepherds. Needless to add, the first birthday game in the world was an unqualified success.
In earlier days, it was common to use actual animals, including a bull and a donkey and other farm animals (pigs) in Birth games. These days it is more common for children to wear animal costumes or to have animal accessories.
Cribs and birth places
Little by little, as the popularity of traditional dance grew outside of Italy as well, small publishers came to the scene. Cribs were nothing but another picture of the birth places, complete with paper cut-out or wooden figures of Mary, Joseph, shepherds and Wise men and husbands.
In many European countries such as Italy and Malta, the bed is the central focus of all Christmas decorations. Cribs go back a long way in the city of Naples in Italy. Here, cribs have been used to decorate houses and churches since the 1020s, long before nativity statues appeared on the site.
The Greatest Birthplace of the Church
Naples in Italy is also home to the largest children’s playground in the world. It is in the ‘Museo Nazionale di S. Martino’ and has about 162 people, 80 animals, angels, and about 450 other small objects.
Malta and Christmas Cribs
Cribs are inherent to Christmas celebrations in Malta. Although they were originally imported from Italy, they are believed to have made the first real Maltese bed in Malta sometime in 1617. They appeared mainly in the Dominican Friars Church in Rabat. One of the best preserved beds in Malta is the one that can be found at St Peter’s Monastery in Mdina, which dates back to 1670. The Benedictine Sisters who lived in that monastery were very respectful.
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#History #Nativity #Plays