Cribs in the world

THE AFRICAN CRIB: a tradition also in Africa.

As we well know in Africa, various religious cultures coexist, all this has led to the consolidation of Christian traditions and therefore also to those linked to Christmas. Christmas in African countries is generally celebrated with lunches, dinners, visits by relatives often from distant villages, and lots of music. Colorful and cheerful processions are organized, the churches are decorated with festoons and flowers.

As symbolism we find the Christmas tree, obviously the classic fir is not used, but rather the majestic palm or mango. The nativity scene was originally of minor importance in African symbolism, but it has now acquired a good affirmation and is a source of income for African artisans. The first nativity scenes were imported by the Franciscan Missionaries as a useful tool to educate the populations, there is intentional effort and patience to bring the Divine Jesus Child back into their tradition with typical features of the white man.

The first nativity scenes were in uncoloured plaster. With time it was tradition that prevailed, with local characters: characters with indigenous somatic features, stylized figures typical of African art dressed in bright clothes. the material used is ivory, raw clay, carved ebony wood and even less precious wood, often colored, coated or with oil.

The statuettes represent animals of the savannah, village chiefs, musicians of typical African instruments who through their melodies announce the happy Novena. The images are amply illustrated in the photo book “Il Presepio nel mondo”, by R. Codroico, A. Daz, G. Erhat, Temi ed., Trento, 1991.


The first to import evangelization into these lands was Magellan, but without success, the Augustinians later reproached us and finally there was full acceptance. Martino Rada was the first to use rough statuettes to represent the Nativity. So the Asian continent was the site of more “Catholic” settlements, a spread of the leopard. Fortunately the then Emperor of the Indies “Akbar”, although he never converted, did not hinder the work of the Friars, and of the diffusion of “Presepistico Performances”, of which for other he was a discreet admirer. This allowed the creation of cribs of considerable invoice. The Representation of the Nativity, preserves evident Indigenous features both as regards the somaticity and the use of local customs and materials, such as bamboo wood, terracotta. Thick creations we can find them in Thailand, in Korea, in China, and especially in the Philippines, but also in Japan.

The Nativity in Latin America

Importing the art of the crib in Latin America were the Jesuits in the second half of the 1500s. The Nativity is a fusion of Catholic and pagan characters. The sky and the sun strongly contrast the snowy landscapes created, by virtue of the fact that Christmas in this part of the world falls in the middle of summer. The countries most closely linked to this art are Argentina and Peru. The Peruvians use materials such as plaster, terracotta, and local fabrics to dress the statues, giving them typical characteristics linked to their culture. often the ox and the donkey are replaced by the llamas.

In Brazil this art arrived in 1600-700 through the Jesuits. At first the achievements were based on the Spanish and Portuguese ones, only later did the characters of “Indigenous Mythology” take off, such as, for example, an “evil genius” “, which brought bad luck. In Mexico, the nativity scene spread in all the exhibitions, there are the typical white and gold statues richly decorated, with flowers, animals and cacti and distinguished by the famous headdresses, with species of pins stuck, which represent the thorns of sins that Jesus atone for the world. Also in Honduras, Guatemala and Ecuador the crib is widespread, it has the shape of a window and is provided with doors. The Crib is present in the houses throughout the year, the doors open when they pray or during the whole period Christmas.

Nativity scene in Europe
Nativity scene in Oceania

Tyrolean Nativity, from Austria and Germany

The Tyrolean Nativity is a classic Christmas crib, the peculiarity is in sculpting the maple wood with great skill.

The figures or rather statues of the Tyrolean crib have a peasant’s clothing, or from the use of hats, aprons and in the case of women, of handkerchiefs and shawls. The clear separation between poor shepherds and the Three Kings is very marked. The representation of the Tyrolean nativity is embellished with many accessories and in detail nothing is left to chance. The numerous children who are in this type of crib, thanks to their loving or “angelic” expression, make happy owners of those who own or build them. Numerous animals are also part of the Tyrolean crib, including chickens, dogs, ducks and birds.

Go to the site to see some very nice photos of the world cribs

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