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Nativity Scenes from Around the World

Every Christmas season, the Glencairn Museum in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania, features a different collection of Nativity sets.

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Whether on the shelf or on the front lawn, many families have their own Nativity scenes that they set up every Christmas. But have you ever wanted to see other Nativity sets from around the world?

Just north of Philadelphia, in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania, stands the stunning Glencairn Museum. Once home to the Pitcairn Family, the castle-like structure now serves as a museum of religious art and history. The original Pitcairn collection includes relics dating back thousands of years and amassed from around the world. Some 8,000 items are on display. Glencairn’s annual holiday exhibition features the work and cultural heritage of contemporary artists who’ve created three-dimensional scenes of the Nativity in a story that speaks to people everywhere. This year’s collection is on loan to the Knights of Columbus museum in New Haven, Connecticut.

Here are 7 amazing Nativity sets from around the world that are currently on display.

READ MORE: The Fascinating History of Nativity Sets

Szopka by Zbigniew Gillert

1 of 7 Árbol Nacimiento by Cecilio Sanchez Fierro

The Tree of Life Nativity is a Mexican artistic tradition inspired by the tree that stood in the biblical Garden of Eden, as described in the book of Genesis. In this vibrant depiction of the “birth tree,” Mexican ceramic artist Cecilio Sanchez Fierro portrays God the Father looking down from the heavens on the Holy Family.

Kokeshi Doll Nativity

2 of 7 Kokeshi Doll Nativity; Artist unknown

Kokeshi dolls are one of Japan’s beloved folk art crafts, dating back 150 years. The elegant wooden dolls, simplified to a trunk and head with meticulously painted details, were originally made as toys for children. The backdrop to the modern Nativity here is called a shoji, a room divider used in traditional Japanese architecture.

Credit: The Knights of Columbus Museum, Inc. Collection, New Haven, Connecticut

3 of 7 Szopka by Zbigniew Gillert

Created by Polish artist Zbigniew Gillert, this work reflects the folk tradition of the Krakow szopka, the “Christmas crib.” Originally designed by Krakow’s architectural craftsmen to earn extra income during the winter, these Nativity scenes highlight the façade of an historic building in one of Poland’s oldest cities.

Credit: Glencairn Museum, Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania

4 of 7 Retablo by Jeronimo E. Lozano

This Nativity retablo, or “altarpiece,” was hand-crafted by Jeronimo E. Lozano, born in the Andes of Peru. His art is influenced by the ancient Peruvian tradition of the portable altar box, carried by travelers for protection. Lozano sculpted the tiny models from a flour-and-water plaster, painting each one, and the box, in joyful colors befitting the scene.

Credit: Glencairn Museum, Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania

5 of 7 Egyptian Nativity by Elhamy Naguib

Elhamy Naguib, a Coptic Orthodox Christian, created this abstract Nativity set to honor his Egyptian heritage. The angels play instruments that harken back to ancient Egypt—the tambourine used by temple dancers, and the mandolin, a stringed instrument of the lute family. Each figure was turned on a lathe from a block of raw wood.

Credit: The Knights of Columbus Museum, Inc. Collection, New Haven, Connecticut.

6 of 7 Mexican Nativity by Guillermina Aguilar Alcantar

The clay figures in this colorful Nativity were all hand formed by Guillermina Aguilar Alcantar from Oaxaca, Mexico. Mary holds a small blanket for the Christ Child, who wears a loin cloth. The blanket has an incised design in the center—perhaps a rose, one of the symbols commonly associated with Mary. Joseph holds a white flower, possibly a lily, an emblem that originated from a story in Jacobus de Voragine’s 13th-century book, The Golden Legend.

Credit: Glencairn Museum, Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania

7 of 7 Danish Nativity; designed by Per Henning Højholm

This Nativity, designed by Per Henning Højholm, was made in a distinctively Danish, mid-century modern style. The set includes the Holy Family, a shepherd and shepherdess, two sheep, and three brightly painted wise men. The wooden shapes are simple, and the painted designs are geometric. The woods used are Danish beech and oak.

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