The Story and History of the Outdoor Nativity Scene

Outdoor Nativity Scenes have been displayed by churches since the fourth century. However, it wasn’t until the thirteenth century that people began to display it outside homes and places of business. This was thanks to St. Francis of Assisi who was the first to start using them beyond the church yard. St. Francis was said to have lived a lavish life up until he was taken prisoner as a twenty-something-year-old soldier and held captive for a year. During that time Francis decided firmly to turn his life around, if he were ever to be set free. After his release, Francis had several dreams which ultimately, he felt God was directing him into a spiritual life back in Assisi Italy. His friends and locals scoffed him initially, but Francis wanted to have a life he felt was meaningful. Francis took the words of Christ to leave all things and follow him quite literally, and took as his companion in life “Lady Poverty.” Francis was known for his happy demeanor, a pleasant personality, and for his love of mankind, animals, nature, and for song. Some actually even believe that St. Francis and his companion composed some of the first Christmas carols. Particularly, Francis was known for his love for the poor, the sick, and less fortunate. Francis wanted to inspire the needy by sharing with them the nativity scene of the humble beginning of Jesus, born in Bethlehem under the lowly circumstance of essentially a barn with barn animals as company. This would help make the story of Christ more relatable and help the poor feel closer to God. Indeed, St. Francis created a nativity scene, complete with a manger, straw, and an ox and ass supplied by a friend. Of course, there was no electricity at that time, so candles were used to light up the scene at night. The scene became a success, and was said to be accompanied by some of the first carolers, inspiring many for generations to come. Interestingly, the biblical record of the nativity does not actually include mention of a stable, straw for a manger, ox, or an ass. But since a manager is a trough for feeding animals, it is safe to assume that Jesus was born under very similar circumstances, likely accompanied by similar animals. Some also feel that the use of the ox and ass in the nativity is tied to a reference in the old testament by Isaiah, which states “The ox knows its owner and the donkey its master’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.” Even before the nativity scene began being used as a way to celebrate and portray the birth of Christ, paintings of Christ’s birth included the ox and donkey as early as the second century A.D. But, of course we don’t actually know if either of those two animals were specifically there at the time of Christ’s birth. The humble symbolism, however, we can all appreciate and helps us better understand just how meek the birth of Jesus was. The outdoor nativity scene continues to inspire millions today, with some slight varying interpretations. Regardless of their historical accuracy, the nativity continues to embody the true meaning of Christmas today. I think if St. Francis could see just how much his labors have influenced so many to echo the inspiring story of Christ, he would feel that he did indeed live a life of meaning, far more than he could have ever imagined. Related: Thinking of obtaining an outdoor nativity scene to share with your loved ones as well as next-door neighbors? An outdoor nativity scene influences everyone by imparting the spirit of Christmas as well as develops fantastic memories for many years to come. MyNativity has fastidiously produced our silhouette nativity scene and characters from the best possible quality, marine grade, PVC material. Our nativities are light-weight, yet they are made to withstand rain, sleet, snow and will last for years to come. Available in 4 sizes, (Life Size, Large, Medium, and also Small,) click on this link to have a look at the different sizes to find which is ideal for you.