Salento and the magic of the nativity scene

With the arrival of December, the traditional appointment with one of the most important Christmas folkloristic events of the year is renewed, which finds its maximum representation in Salento. What Christmas would it be without the nativity scene? Especially in our Salento, the tradition of setting up the nativity scene in one’s homes is still alive and deeply felt. This is considered an extraordinarily poetic and romantic element, unlike the more recent Christmas tree, which refers to the profane and consumerist element of the holiday.

For the occasion, there is no municipality in Salento that does not organize an artistic or living nativity scene, to worthily celebrate the arrival of the festival.

Christmas nativity scene
Christmas nativity scene ©foodphotographer via Canva

The origins

  • Historically, the merit of having “invented” the nativity scene was attributed to San Francesco who referred to the sacred representations which, since the very early Middle Ages, were staged in churches during the liturgy on Christmas night. The Saint of the Poor reproduced the scene of the Nativity in Greccio, a small village in the province of Rieti, in 1223, according to the testimony of Saint Bonaventure, with flesh and blood characters, to bring closer even to humble and simple people and to the illiterate, who could not read the Holy Scriptures, the miracle of the birth of Jesus.
  • The custom of setting up artistic nativity scenes became so popular that many other churches soon joined it, each creating its own particular and unique nativity scene.

Nativity scenes in Salento

The Salento boasts an enviable record in terms of nativity scenes, preserving an ancient tradition. The first artistic nativity scene in the world, in fact, was created in Lecce by San Francesco in 1222. San Francesco, returning from a trip to the East, stopped to spend the holidays in Lecce. Here, he would have created an artistic nativity scene with terracotta statues, a year before the “living nativity scene” of Greccio.

Nativity scenes, of all types, living, artistic, mechanical, very small and enormous, are made in every corner of our province. In the streets of the villages, in the churches, in the squares, in the country farms, in the “trappeti“, in the quarries and on the promontories of the Salento Murge, in the caves on the seashore, if not actually at the bottom of the sea.

Nativity scenes are usually characterized by a walking route that allows you to relive and rediscover the ancient traditions and crafts that marked the era in which the Child was born. The path, with a suggestive and magical atmosphere, mixes with the sweet arias of Christmas carols often performed live, which leads to the Bethlehem cave in a continuous celebration of lights, colors and sounds given by the noises and the exploits of the people in costume.

Christmas nativity scene in Alberobello
Christmas nativity scene in Alberobello ©
ricette natalizie pugliesi
Apulian Christmas at the table

The preparation of typical foods for the Christmas period is a thought that haunts Salento grandmothers very soon!

Mercatini di Natale a Borgo Egnazia
Borgo Egnazia: Christmas Markets

Christmas is approaching and with it brings with it the magical and warm atmosphere that characterizes it and which also envelops Borgo Egnazia, in Savelletri di Fasano, one of the most beautiful places in Puglia, a triumph of beauty, history and gastronomy, ready for you to experience a Christmas fairy tale.