Video: Italian Manger Scenes

To celebrate the season, I’m sharing clips, extras, and behind-the-scenes notes from Rick Steves’ European Christmas.

A wonderful tradition in Italy is churches and communities making creative manger scenes and putting them on display through the Christmas season. These presepi, as manger scenes are called in Italy, originated 800 years ago just north of Rome, in Assisi. St. Francis was a master at teaching Bible lessons with clever props, and he figured out that a manger scene helped people relate to the Christmas message more vividly. Ever since then, the Baby Jesus has been shown on his day of birth in a humble setting, in local scenes that have not a hint of Bethlehem: an Italian setting for Italian viewers (or an Arctic scene for Eskimos) to connect more intimately with the story of the Nativity.

In Rome, it was a Bethlehem home show, as all over town creative crèches were on display. Here’s a collection of some of our favorites — ranging from holy to homemade to mod to igloos.