Nativity scenes in Mexico

Nativity scenes in Mexico
The nativity always include Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the three Magi, angels, farmers, and animals - Photo: Germán García/EL UNIVERSAL

Nativity scenes in Mexico

Mexico City
Magalli Delgadillo, Lourdes Pina Soria del Valle
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In Mexico, people place the nativity set under the Christmas tree on December 16th

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It’s Christmas time in Mexico City, people flock to markets to buy Christmas trees, lights, ornaments, and the nativity sets, which include Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the three Magi, angels, farmers, and animals and although all the sets include these characters, the figures are made with different materials: ceramic, porcelain, clay, wood, and plastic.

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The first nativity figurines

It is believed that these figurines originated between 1200 and 1226. During Christmas, Saint Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscan order, felt suddenly inspired and decided to represent the birth of Jesus.

According to ACI Prensa, a media outlet specialized in the Catholic religion, Saint Francis “built a house using straw, placed a crib inside the structure, brought an ox, and invited a small group of people to represent the birth of Jesus.


This became a tradition and was adopted by Catholic countries in Europe, where they replaced actors with clay figures.

The first nativity set was built using clay in Naples, at the end of the 15th century. Nevertheless, it was Charles III who promoted this tradition after he issued an order that dictated that setting up nativities at home should become a common practice.

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Nativity scenes arrive in Mexico

This trend became a trend that was adopted all over the world. In Mexico, this tradition was adopted during colonial times and was used to convert Indigenous people. At churches, friars represented the birth of Jesus to explain the gospel.

Between the 18th century and the 19th century, communities transformed the sacred family and they no longer looked European, instead, they now looked Mexican.


Moreover, there are at least five different nativity sets on sale in Mexico: the Italian, Spanish, Mexican, English, and elegant versions. The main differences are the clothes, facial features, skin color, and pose of Mary.

The nativity sets made in Mexico are mainly made from resin and clay. The resin figurines are made in Toluca and Puebla, while the clay ones are made in Tonalá and Zapopan.

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And while the location where Jesus was born is desertic, in Mexico people have adapted the tradition to their culture and often place moss or hay under the figurines yet this practice is illegal, as it has a negative effect on the ecosystem.


Moreover, Mexican nativity sets added waterfalls, cacti, plants and other figurines such as chickens, shepherds, farmers, cooks, children, and working women and men.

According to tradition, the nativity set must be placed under the Christmas tree on December 16th, when the first posada takes place and the Jesus figurine must not be placed in the crib until December 24th.



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