As the tradition of the Nativity Scene is so important to the Spanish I decided to write about one more belén related thing, the live Nativity, or belén viviente. In the days coming up to Christmas there were a few of these open and I went to see one with my students.
Belén viviente basically means that people can go and visit the scenes of the Birth of Jesus and the working lives of the people of Bethlehem at that time. This custom originates from the 13th century from Italy when Saint Francis once celebrated Christmas near a convent in Italy. He prepared a living representation of the Birth in a cave by using an ox and an ass. As it was very cold they put a doll in the crib instead of an actual baby. It got very popular and in the years after it spread all over the country then to Spain.
We went to see my first belén viviente in a small building next to a church in the outskirts of Seville. They only let a certain amount of visitors in and the event was popular so we had to wait a bit. Even the waiting was full of events as one of my student´s family had arrived and they wanted to join us but there were two girls already waiting behind us in the queue. We agreed to let the girls go in in front of us so our group can visit the belén together. All this happened in a very Spanish way, everybody was speaking at the same time (that to me sounded like arguing but they were just pleasantly chatting) giving a range of ideas how to solve the problem. To me it felt like standing in the eye of a hurricane. Eventually the girls went ahead and we waited a bit more for our turn.
It was like stepping out from modern Seville and into the town of Bethlehem 2000 years ago. They decorated everything very well and while we listened to the story from a loudspeaker (in Spanish but my students translated the main things) we watched as children act out the scenes for us. The place was small and the rooms a bit dark so I couldn´t really take very good photos but I hope you can still see what it was about.
Mary sitting at home.
Joseph has arrived.
They even had a real lamb!
The Angel tells Joseph that Mary´s pregnant and the baby is not his.
A market in town.
Some more 'workers'.
The Baby has been born!
The Three Wise Men. Everybody took a photo with them so we had to have one, too. On my right there´s Claudia, Rocio and Noelia.
We missed Penelope from the first photo so she had one all for her.
I found the whole experience very interesting. If you have a chance to see one, don´t miss out on it!