I have already talked about the Christmas belén market in Seville (you can read about it here). Now I´d like to introduce the belén itself to you in detail, too.
In almost every Spanish family´s home at Christmas time there´s a little place for the Nativity Scene. These were already present way before the trees themselves came into fashion. However, while in English the word ´nativity scene´ implies the stable where the Baby was born, Belén is Bethlehem in Spanish, which basically means the whole town! Therefore they don´t stop at recreating the Créche but include everything else that was happening at that time in the town of Bethlehem.
The first thing you have to set up for your belén is the misterio, this is the basic but most important part. It includes a crib for Baby Jesus (you are only supposed to put the actual baby in after you come home from Midnight Mass), Mary and Joseph. Then you can add a few animals, too, maybe an ox and a donkey. We will need an Angel, too. On your next trip to town you might bring home a herd of sheep with the shepherds who might be facing towards the stable.
The Three Wise Men are also essential, although you will need two sets of them. The first set will start off on their camels from the palace of Herod (you might as well buy those, too, throw in a few soldiers as well, to look the part). Every day you will have to place them a step closer to the stable as they slowly make their way to see the Baby during Advent. When they arrive on 24th December, you have to swap them to the second set which hold the presents in their hands.
From here on only your imagination is the limit. You can buy houses with little curtains included, inns with people sitting around the tables, street markets where many different kind of vendors are selling their wares, or farmers ploughing their land in the background. In the old days children used to collect the wrapping paper from sweets to make a river or steal coal pieces from train tracks. Nowadays you can buy everything all ready for you.
If you need inspiration, just go around the many displayed belén scenes or walk through the Ruta de Belén. You will always know where to find them as usually there´s a long queue in front of them. In some of them they even darken the room at certain times to imitate nightfall. After a few minutes the light slowly comes up again, a new day has arrived. You might even get to see some special collections made by a famous belén artist.