Nativity scenes, an ancient Christmas tradition

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Nativity scenes, an ancient Christmas tradition

Sand nativity on Las Canteras Beach, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (detail). Photo: EFE/Elvira Urquijo A. (EFE)
Sand nativity on Las Canteras Beach, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (detail). Photo: EFE/Elvira Urquijo A. (EFE)

Crèches or Nativity scenes are a Christmas classic in Spain. With time, they have gone beyond their religious element to become an enduring Christmas symbol, to be found in almost every town or village.

These are the most popular or curious Nativity scenes in our country.

Jerez de los Caballeros Nativity Scene

The Santa Ángela de la Cruz Monumental Nativity Scene, in Jerez de los Caballeros, in the province of Badajoz, is one of the most spectacular crèches in Spain and one of the largest in the world. Spanning 600m2, it is comprised of more than 15,000 figurines and sets.

When: Until 7 January

Where: Food Market, Plaza de Santiago, Jerez de los Caballeros, Badajoz

El Escorial Nativity Scene

Every year for Christmas, a monumental crèche is set up in San Lorenzo de El Escorial. Life-size figures take their place in the main streets in town to make one of the largest nativity scenes in Spain, covering more than 5000m2 and comprising over 500 figures.

When: Through January

Where: San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Madrid

Beas Living Nativity Scene

Living nativity scenes are more spectacular and realistic. In them, figurines are replaced by flesh-and-blood performers re-enacting the scenes associated with the birth of Jesus.

The town of Beas, in the province of Huelva, boasts the oldest living nativity scene in Andalusia (second in Spain). It was first staged in the 1970s. At present, it spreads across town to cover more than 3000m2, with the participation of hundreds of actors.

When: From 25 November to 2 January

Where: Beas, Huelva

Las Canteras Sand Nativity

Las Canteras Beach, in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, is home to one of the most original crèches in Spain and the largest nativity scene made of sand in Europe. In fact, it is one of the greatest tourist attractions in the area during the Christmas season. Last year, it drew over 210,000 visitors – and it is expected to attract an even higher number this year.

In its 12th edition, the nativity scene in Las Canteras was designed by renowned international artists and art students. The result is a monumental open-air nativity scene that is famous across Spain and beyond Spanish borders.

When: Until 8 January

Where: Las Canteras Beach, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

Rute Chocolate Nativity

In the town of Rute, province of Córdoba, they set up a most original nativity scene, appealing to those with a sweet tooth. Made entirely of chocolate, this artisan crèche has been a Christmas classic for the past 90 years.

This year, 1500 kilos of white and dark chocolate were used to make Spain’s sweetest crèche, recreating some of Spain’s World Heritage Sites: the Hanging Houses in Cuenca, the Alcázar of Toledo, the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral

When: Until 5 January

Where: Rute, Córdoba

Prince Neapolitan Nativity Scene

Commissioned by King Charles III for his son (who would become King Charles IV), this is one of the most important crèches in Spain.

It comprises over 200 figurines in the style of Neapolitan crèches, as well as some others after the Genoese and Spanish traditions. Some of them were made in Italian workshops specialising in Nativity figures and sets, open since the eighteenth century.

When: Until 14 January

Where: Royal Guards’ Room, Royal Palace, Madrid