The 10 Best Nativity Sets

Updated March 09, 2018 by Tina Morna Freitas

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We spent 43 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. Looking to add to your Christmas decorations for this year? Consider one of these nativity sets, all featuring the classic story, some with whimsical scenes and some with exquisite figurines. The origin of this traditional display is credited to Saint Francis of Assisi and dates back to 1223, continuing a long history of celebrating the birth of Jesus. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best nativity set on Amazon.

10. Collections Etc. Flameless Candles

9. Following the Star

8. Holy Land Market Miniature

7. Kurt Adler 7 Piece

6. Lenox First Blessing Holy Family

5. Teak Isle Outdoor

4. Brubaker Christmas Pyramid

3. Fisher-Price Little People

2. Demdaco Willow Tree

1. Three Kings Gifts Real Life

How To Properly Arrange And Care For Your Nativity Set

The first key to arranging a nativity set is determining which gospel that set has been based on. The majority of nativities have been designed to provide a general-and-yet-faithful recreation of Christ's origin story as related via the Gospels of either Matthew or Luke, both of which include specific differences. The Gospel of Luke, for example, includes the only scriptural reference to shepherds watching their flocks by night, whereas the Gospel of Matthew includes the only scriptural reference to a trio of wise men arriving by camel.

While you can use the scriptures as a guide, the protocol for any nativity set is that the baby Jesus should be positioned in the center, with Mary and Joseph flanking him. The space in front of Jesus should be left open, with shepherds, wise men, and any other figurines fanning out in order of importance. Animals should be positioned along the fringes, since they are shorter. Angels should be positioned overhead, as if they are in the sky.

When the holiday season is over, every piece of a nativity set should be wiped down to minimize any chance of dirt build-up. Bundle your figurines inside of double-ply paper or bubble wrap (avoid using newspaper, as the ink might leave a film). If your set is valuable, you may want to place all of the pieces inside a sealed container. Make it a point not to stack any ornaments on top of your nativity set, especially if the figurines have been hand-crafted. You can replace a set of Christmas balls a lot easier than you can replace a wise man's leg.

How To Transform a Nativity Set Into an Annual Tradition

At its core, any nativity set is a reminder of the true meaning of Christmas. Certain people celebrate that by placing a nativity set front and center beneath their holiday tree. Other people celebrate the spirit of Christmas by donating a nativity set to a local non-profit, a nearby school, or perhaps even a family in need.

A lot of Catholic school teachers celebrate the holiday season by having their students create their own shoebox nativity sets. Students use a shoebox as a backdrop along with clothes pins (to make stick people), felt (to make robes, shrouds, and beards), toothpicks (to make staffs), and Popsicle sticks (to make a manger and stables). Markers are used for drawing faces, and markers are also used for drawing a background along the inside of the box.

Assuming you have enough space, you may be able to enhance your nativity set by purchasing a new piece for it year after year. This way your nativity can evolve much like a Dickens Village, expanding to include a little drummer boy, a choir of angels, a collection of animals, and a nearby inn.

Some people place a Bible in front of their nativity scenes, with the scripture open to the specific passage which their set has been based on. Others drill a hole into the roof of the stable so they can place a bright bulb in through the firmament. This bulb, which is usually pulled down from a strand of tree lights above, is meant to represent the North Star.

A Brief History of The Nativity Set

St. Francis of Assisi erected the first nativity scene in 1223. Francis based his conception on the Gospels according to Matthew and Luke, these being the only two gospels that relate an elaborate birth story for Christ. St. Francis constructed his nativity inside a cave in Central Italy, and he used actual people along with living animals to create a more compelling feel.

Pope Honorius III endorsed this idea, a development which led to several similarly-staged scenes being erected throughout Europe. By the 14th century, nativities had become an annual tradition throughout the Church. Most of the live performers were being replaced by hand-made figurines; most of the outdoor settings were being replaced by wooden props.

By the end of the 1800s, nativity scenes had spread to every corner of Christendom, and they were available in a range of styles and sizes meant to accommodate the home, the church, or the office. The majority of figurines were being made out of terracotta, wax, or ivory. Elaborate sets were being sold as collectors' items - a profit-based practice which flew in the face of St. Francis' original intent.

Today, nativity sets continue to be a hallmark of the holiday season. In Christian households and in churches, these wholesome sets have become almost as recognizable as the Christmas tree itself. There is one primary difference, however, in that nativity sets continue to sell at a reasonable pace, whereas "real" Christmas tree sales have begun to drop off - a byproduct of American consumers investing in artificial trees as a way of saving on costs and clean-up, while remaining environmentally responsible, as well.


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Last updated on March 09, 2018 by Tina Morna Freitas

Tina Morna Freitas is a writer who lives in Chicago with her family and two cats. She enjoys making and sipping margaritas and aspires to be a crazy cat lady once all the children are grown.


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