Saint Francis of Assisi is said to have created the first nativity scene in 1223 near Greccio, Italy. The scene inspired communities throughout Christian countries to stage similar scenes and the tradition continues to this very day.

A nativity scene depicts the Nativity (or birth) of Jesus. It may also be called a crib, manger or crèche scene. Featured in the scene are usually the Holy Family (Mary, Joseph and the Baby Jesus), angels, three Magi, an ox, a donkey, and an assortment of shepherds. All of these figures are mentioned in the account of Jesus' birth in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. According to Luke (2:8-20), the shepherds visited the Holy Family and found Jesus lying in a manger (animal feeding trough). Matthew (2:1-23) tells of the arrival of the Magi, or three kings, who came bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

There are typically two types of nativity scenes. One is a static representation of the figures made from materials such as wood, clay and so forth. The other is a living scene, featuring human actors and animals. It is the latter that St. Francis produced in 1223.

Saint Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) was the founder of the Franciscan Order and patron saint of stowaways, animals, the environment, merchants and Italy. He was born in Assisi, hence his saintly title. Francis used the Gospels as his laws and tried to replicate the love of Jesus Christ through his actions.

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