Saint Francis of Assisi is credited with building the first nativity scene in 1223; it was a "living" one. He asked for, and received, permission of the Pope to build the creche for the intention of encouraging the worship of Christ. It was after his visit to the Holy Land where he'd seen Jesus's birthplace. The scene he built became popular throughout Catholic countries and continues today. Of course, in the United States it's become an issue that government agencies not demonstrate a preference for Christianity over other faiths like Judaism, Muslims, Hinduism, etc. The symbolization of the nativity scene, in my opinion, can be taken as an honorific to birth and new life, in general.
I have several nativity scenes I've collected in my travels, albeit packed away in storage. Here are a few scenes I took off the Internet. In a future post I'll share some of the traditions I've shared in while living in Provence, France and Guatemala ....
Now, I'm heading out in Cajun country to find out about these holiday traditions .... and other things too.
Greek Byzantine nativity scene
Mexican dried flower nativity scene
Napoli nativity scene
LEGO Nativity Scene
Living Nativity Scene - Poland
Silhouette Nativity Scene
Peruvian Combination Crucifix and Nativity Scene