How To Create Houses And Huts For The DIY Nativity Scene

If for next Christmas you are pampering the idea of ​​making a beautiful nativity scene entirely by yourself, then better organize yourself in advance: here are some interesting ideas.

Throughout the Catholic world by now, and not only, the representation of the birth of Jesus is known and commonly called the nativity scene, or presepio, from the Latin word praesaepe which means manger. According to the ancient Byzantine tradition, in fact, it was customary to depict the Nativity scene inside a cave, with the Virgin lying on a makeshift bed and the baby Jesus in a nearby manger, while Saint Joseph was symbolically placed aloof outside the cave.


Starting from the fifteenth century, the nativity scene was mainly represented in sculptural and pictorial art; in fact, many great artists, starting with Giotto, have ventured into the interpretation or reproduction of the Nativity scene. The tradition of the nativity scene in the popular sphere, on the other hand, owes its origin to Saint Francis of Assisi, who in 1223 had a sacred representation of the Nativity made in Greccio by arranging only a crib, hay, an ox and a donkey.

The friars and the population of Greccio attended that humble theatrical scene without actors; Mass was celebrated on the empty manger, St. Francis sang songs from the Gospel and sermons to the people about the birth of the poor King. The Greccio event had such an impact that from that moment on the nativity scene abandoned the purely artistic sphere and officially entered the popular one, becoming a real rite celebrated annually inside the churches, where for the occasion they were set up nativity scenes with figurines and other elements taken from the natural environment.

This tradition spread rapidly especially in central Italy and Emilia-Romagna, and in the Renaissance era it had already become a common custom to place the statues of the protagonists of the Nativity inside churches and sanctuaries.

The nativity scene in the house


The spread of the nativity scene in the home therefore began in the seventeenth century instead, with the approval of the pope during one of the phases of the Council of Trent; the pope, in fact, immediately recognized the great ability of the crib to transmit the faith in a simple and humble way, much closer to reality and popular sentiments. Initially, the wooden nativity scene , made in the form of a single sculpture more or less detailed and finished according to the case, of the size of an ornament was widespread in the home . During the seventeenth century the custom of creating cribs soon spread to the southernmost and northernmost regions of Italy, and then to the rest of Europe.

Starting from the eighteenth century, the art of the nativity scene reached such a point of development that we already saw the affirmation of various craft traditions, starting with those of the Neapolitan, Bolognese and Genoese cribs.


In the period between the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, the popular diffusion of the Christmas tree joined the tradition of the nativity scene. Customs have therefore undergone transformations with the passage of time, but tradition has never failed. Indeed, the custom of creating a do-it-yourself nativity scene has taken hold instead of buying a sculpture already made, and enriching it gradually every Christmas.

Over the centuries, in fact, a real handicraft sector has arisen with the relative market niche, which are dedicated exclusively to the nativity scene and the materials necessary to make it; in this way, for some people, and for entire families of artisans, making cribs has become a full-time job.


How to build a nativity scene


We then come to the point of the discussion, that is to make the nativity scene at home , and in particular how to build houses for the nativity scene in a simple way. First of all, let’s start immediately by saying that to build a nativity scene it is better not to improvise; a minimum of planning and a drawing on paper of the idea to be realized, perhaps complete with the measures and the various elements that make up the scene, can be of great help to make an estimate of the necessary materials, any equipment and costs of the operation .

The materials to be used


To reduce expenses as much as possible, for example, it is possible to recycle the raw material: wooden fruit crates, empty, old newspapers, plastic bottles, even the glue can be prepared on your own by boiling water and flour until you get a composed of medium density.

For the base of the crib it is possible to use a sheet of plywood or polystyrene, or both; a single polystyrene panel such as those used for thermal insulation, for example, can cost from 4 to 15 euros depending on the size and thickness, and once cut and shaped it can provide more than enough material to create the ‘basic setting with the ground, the cave and the mountains.The cutting and shaping of the polystyrene can be done with hot wire or, even more simply, using a cutter.


Once the basic scenario has been prepared, therefore, it can be finished by covering it with stucco or with modeling clay, such as DAS for example, wait for it to dry and then paint it or sprinkle it with glue to apply grass, moss, shrubs, pebbles and other decorative elements in miniature to reproduce the natural landscape.


The houses and the hut can be easily made with sheets of cardboard or foam, on which the shapes will be drawn which will then be cut and glued. It is also possible to make wooden houses made from tongue depressors, which are similar to ice cream sticks but wider and easier to work, or with balsa; after having built them, their appearance can be further improved by applying a coat of wood stain or finishing varnish, in order to further enhance the warm colors and grain.

That of painting is another phase of the realization to be taken into account, regardless of the type of raw materials used for the creation of the nativity scene; the paints, in fact, must be chosen carefully based on the material used. Just to give an example, solvent-based paints and epoxy resins should never be used on polystyrene cribs .

If, on the other hand, you do not need to save at all costs, then you can also consider the idea of ​​using the appropriate material for the nativity scene for sale online or in shops specializing in art supplies and model making; then trees, bushes and tufts of synthetic grass, crushed stone of various sizes and colors, various sands and soils as well as glues, paints, tools and specific tools.

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