The Creche

By Iride Aparicio

A life-size baby Jesus                              Photo by Iride Aparicio
 A life-size baby Jesus
Photos by Iride Aparicio      
Power-Point show by: CLAUDIO OBREGON

Guatemala City, Guatemala – The “Nacimientos” or “Creches” (The representation of a manger with the sculptural depictions of the Nativity inside) is one of Guatemala’s oldest Christian traditions. During December, one can see the “Nacimientos” displayed at the shopping Malls, in the churches, and inside a room in the houses, because as a Catholic devotion, many families set a “Nacimiento” in their homes. Some “Nacimientos” are small, while others (like the one shown each Christmas on TV standing at the Vatican Square)  are big and have life-size “Nativity” statues.

The word “Nativity,” means birth. It reflects the place of birth, and the circumstances of being born, but the word “Nativity” usually refers to the birth of Jesus.

Luke 2-8 describes his birth this way: “An there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them. And the Glory of the Lord shone about them and they were terrified, but the angel said to them.                                                                      
AngelDo not be afraid for I am bringing you good news of great joy, which will be to every people, for today, a Savior has been born to you in David’s town who is Christ the Lord. You will recognize him by this sign: you will find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.”

In Guatemala, you can observe many versions of that night represented in the “Nacimientos.”  Most of them  have a Manger inside which we see the statues of San Joseph, the Virgin Mary, and an ox and a mule laying next to an empty crib. The crib is waiting for Baby Jesus to be “born” (which happens on December 24 at 12a.m. when his image is placed on the crib by a member of the family, in a ceremony which includes prayers asking for baby Jesus blessing. While the three “Kings” Gaspar, Melchior and Balthazar (the Wise men) and their entourage are part of the "Nativity," in some homes they are added on January 6 when Guatemalans celebrate "El Dia de Los Reyes" (King's Day) by placing the children’s shoes on the window sills or close to their beds so that “The Kings” could deposit something inside them which is usually money or a small toy.   

 How the  “Nacimientos,” are presented depend on the creativity of the family. while most of them are basic, and use the basic figures like this hand-wood-carved Nacimiento made in Jerusalem

Nativity from Jeruselem

The central theme of any “Nacimiento” is the Manger, but some extends them to the fields, outside the manger, and add shepherds and sheep, whole cities with houses, trees, mountains, lakes, waterfalls, and lots of “pastorcitos,” which are different statues of shepherds  carrying flowers, lambs, baskets of bread, or water jars on their hands and heads.  Many  “Nacimientos” have an elaborate sky, usually covered with lights representing the stars, with the brightest of them illuminating the manger. The skies are usually made of corrugated tissue paper, with white cotton clouds glued over them and are usually filled with Angels. When the angels do not appear flying in the sky, at least one may appear kneeling next to the Child Jesus, as part of the “Nativity.”


Fray William Saunders, in a Catholic Education article published online, writes that The origin of the “Nacimientos” is attributed to St. Francis of Asisi. He writes that in the year 1223 when St. Bonaventure wrote the life of St. Francis, he wrote that three years before St.Francis death, in order to excite the inhabitants of Grecio to celebrate the Nativity (birth) of Jesus, St. Francis asked and obtained permission from the then Pontiff, to prepare a manger. So he brought hay and an ox and an ass to the inside of a cave in a rock, and as part of the Christmas Mid-night Mass St. Francis stood outside the manger relating to the people the story of the nativity calling Jesus “The Babe of Bethlehem who came to this world to save us from our sins". And as St. Francis prayed, Wrote St. Bonaventure, he beheld a beautiful infant (a real baby) who was sleeping in the manger. He blessed him,  and embraced him with both his arms. He later added that the hay of that first manger was preserved by the people of Grecio, and it miraculously cured diseases of cattle and people.

With the “Nacimientos,” Guatemala celebrates the birth of a child who came into this world to teach us to love each other   

 The account of Jesus’ birth is based on the accounts of two Canonical Gospels: the Gospel of Matthew (18-75) and the Gospel of Luke. 2- 8 written in most Christian Bibles.


Presentada por Claudio Obregón

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