Many people display Nativity sets during the Christmas season as a representation the birth of Christ. But do you know where the actual idea of a Nativity set came from?
The original Nativity set was actually a live scene with people playing the parts of Mary, Joseph, Jesus and the Three Wise Men. Real animals were even used in the barn where the live scene was taking place thanks to Saint Joseph of Assisi. His idea soon spread to Germany in the 1600's. Most often these live Nativity displays occurred in front of a church or other houses of worship. As these live Nativity scenes grew in popularity, artists began carving what they saw in the display into wood, stone or ivory.
In 1741 when Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, came to be in the United States, the people that settled there from overseas, brought with them these carved nativity scenes. This is how people in the United States came to discover Nativity sets. For many people today, displaying a Nativity set is a sign of Christmas spirit.