26 Dec 2009

On the Second day of Christmas...

I saw two Nativity scenes!

The building of a Belen (the name for Bethlehem in Spanish) in the home is a big Spanish tradition (the introduction of the Christmas Tree in Spain is actually very recent, many families just do the Belen). The basis is just the Crèche:

the Baby in the manger, Mary, Joseph, the mule and donkey, an angel and the Three Kings. These figures we got in Granada (the 3 Kings about 15 years after the others). They're a wonderful collection of clay and cloth and my favourites from the many different types I've seen! :o)

If one has space then the scene gets bigger to incorporate more of the village and other characters:

Hmm, I like catching the lights, but this was a quick series of shots and I just realised (too late, am in another city for the day!) that you can't see much of the details! Well, probably if you click on it to make it bigger. Here are two close-ups of the Crèche:

Once again our best "Belenes" were in Mexico (man was that a big house!). We used to lay it out over a full dining room table, had King Harrod's castle, place the Three Kings on along the path as of December 25th and then every day moved them a bit forward so they reached the Crèche on the night of January 5th (Jan 6th being Three Kings Day a.k.a. the Epiphany, also the final of the 12 days of Christmas). Other than the original traditional little clay figurines, we also have quite an eclectic selection of figures from our travels (arabs with their camels, little carved wooden houses, lots of little animals and a tiny piñata from Mexico...). My sister's British boyfriend set this up with my Dad's guidance last week, but they got a few elements wrong (the angels aren't in the right spot, we've got an extra Joseph among the shepherds, lol!), but it's still lovely. We'll introduce the Three Kings on January 6th, there wasn't any space to set up the 3 on their mounts this year.

Here's a better look at last year's (click on that link for more details; since I've got the same problem as w/ the Xmas tree yesterday, I can't get hold of my old Mexico-era Xmas photos at the moment) that I put together:

In Alicante the "Belén" is a very big deal, there is even a local competition! One of our old neighbours actually won it a couple of times. There are also several very large "Belenes" placed around town, I'll try and get a few shots of them for you next time I'm in town. ;o)


  1. What a wonderful tradition...thank you for sharing it with us...smiles.

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed it!
    I never could decide as a child which I enjoyed more: decorating the tree or setting up the Belen! :o)

  3. My mom would have loved to see this, she is the one who always set it up every year at our house, but it was no where near this elaborate. The set we had when I was a child was lost when they moved to Florida and it broke her heart. She bought a large set of just the main figurines that is beautiful, but I'll always miss the other set.

  4. the larger yet smaller set (large as in space it takes up, small as in size of figurines) has always been a nostalgic element... my mom likes to tell stories of how they set it up at her grandmother's when she was a kid, saving up bits of foil from candy wrappers for months in advance, collecting bits of coal from the train tracks... A lot of childhood memories are wrapped up in these Belenes, for everyone!


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