515775321 Nativity scene

Nativity scene

Contributed photo

FLORENCE — Hundreds of manger scenes will be on display for the 12th annual Nativity Festival in Florence Dec. 1-3. Attendees will have a chance to explore the crèche tradition in the folk art of many cultures.  

Francis of Assisi, an Italian saint, invented the crèche tradition in the 13th century. According to legend, the Nativity custom dates back to a December night in 1224 when he was traveling to the Italian village of Greccio. The sight of shepherds sleeping in the moonlit fields evoked images of the first Christmas. Inspired by the midnight scene, St. Frances beckoned villagers to light the sky with candles, bring their animals and re-enact the Nativity. 

This year's Nativity Festival will be held daily 1-6 p.m. Dec. 1-3 at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints' local building, located on the corner of North Fork  at 2705 Munsel Lake Road. Admission is free to all faiths and beliefs, and children are welcome. Each day there will be special musical performances.

The festival has grown from a one-day event displaying 119 nativity scenes to a three-day festival with almost 400 crèches, tapestries and other art forms depicting the birth of Christ.   

Most of the Nativity sets are on loan from local members of the community. These are cherished pieces to them that have become part of their family traditions. Many have been collecting for years and are eager to share their love of the Savior with you through their Nativity scenes. Children are invited to color their own book of the first Christmas story. Coloring sheets will be available so that small children also can participate. 

The Christmas crèche-also known as a Nativity or manger scene is more than a decoration. For many, displaying a Christmas crèche is a way to focus on the real meaning of the holiday. They can be made from many different materials and can vary from single piece displays to a whole entourage of shepherds, wise men, cattle and the Holy Family. Crèches come in all shapes and sizes, from traditional figures handed down through generations (the 3-legged dog, the camel with the chipped nose) to ethnic interpretations, from children's paper cutouts to expensive collectibles. Latin American Nativity scenes are fashioned from clay and sometimes set inside carved gourds. In recent decades, Native Americans of the Southwestern United States have made a specialty of building crèche figures from traditional pottery.
For a complete listing of musical presentations, look for Florence Nativity Festival on Facebook. 
 at 5 p.m. Sunday with a Christmas Devotional message, live from Salt Lake City, Utah, featuring music by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

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