Traditional Nativity Scenes

Christmas has arrived, it is here, Christmas lights up Galicia, and it is noticeable in every corner. A very festive Christmas with room for the traditions of always. The custom of setting up the nativity scene survives year after year. Nativity scenes in the intimacy of the family and nativity scenes that are a spectacle. There are wooden figures, clay figures, mobile, with modern characters, with special effects, life-size… To enjoy Christmas to the full, there is nothing better than visiting one of these nativity scenes, each one with its own character and with a lot of work behind it.

We have important dates in all four provinces, so… Let the nativity marathon begin! Let’s see where we can find them:

Let’s start in A Coruña. If we go to the capital at Christmas and we want to know who is who in the world of A Coruña, we only have to visit the Municipal Nativity Scene (5 Dec-6 Jan.), as the ensemble grows year after year with figures representing characters from the city. Each edition is dedicated to someone. The 2023 edition is dedicated to Luisa Villalta.

Another must-see in A Coruña is the Belén de la Grande Obra de Atocha (25 Dec.-6 Jan.), the work of Camilo Díaz Baliño. It has the singularity of being made to scale of the map of Jerusalem, very scientifically.

Half an hour away, the mobile Bethlehem of Betanzos (10 Dec.-14 Jan.), on the first floor of the Liceo, not only moves, but also tells us about the scene it represents, making the visit very didactic.

Another classic on the move is the Nativity Scene of the Third Order of Ferrol (26 Nov.-6 Jan.), made by Alfredo Martín more than 60 years ago and with more than 200 figures.

In Ares there is a more recent nativity scene, from the 90s. It is the Nativity Scene of the O Tilo Cultural Society (2 Dec.-7 Jan.), which has more than 300 figures, 35 of which are mobile.

If we are looking for a 100% Neapolitan nativity scene, we have to visit the church of San Agustín, in Santiago, where the Nativity Scene of the cathedral of Santiago (7 Dec.-8 Jan.), with more than 500 handmade figures and several of them automatics, is on display.

A few metres from there, we find the traditional Nativity Scene in San Fiz de Solovio (1 Dec.-5 Jan.), with more than 200 pieces of clay and painted canvas, movable pieces and lighting.

In Conxo, since 1945, the Otero Moreira family has been welcoming visitors to their Family Nativity Scene in Conxo (1 Dec.-7 Jan.), with more than 1,000 figures.

The nativity scene can also be set up in the cloister, as is the case in the Nativity scene of the collegiate church of Sar (10 Dec.-7 Jan.), which has 300 handcrafted figures, 100 of them in action, and light and water effects, with windmills, waterfalls, rivers… Although the most impressive thing is the night storm, with a good dose of thunder and lightning.

On the Costa da Morte there are two very curious nativity scenes: Nativity Scenes of the World (1 Dec.-14 Jan.), in the Museum of Bergantiños, in Carballo, and the Ortigueira Nativity Scene (3 Dec.-10 Jan.), in the church of Santa Marta, which is like a large theatre with a diorama representation of a very original nativity scene, with canvases by Camilo Díaz Baliño from 1924 and Egyptian and oriental elements.

In the province of Lugo there are also important nativity scenes. Precisely, there is one in Terra Chá that is of tourist interest: The Electronic Nativity Scene of Begonte (3 Dec.-27 Jan.), more than 50 years old, full of handmade figures and electronic mechanisms, with scenes of Galician popular life. Many activities are organised around the crib, such as poetry and painting competitions… There is even a Museum of the crib, in the room adjacent to the exhibition room.

In Lugo city, the Lugo Nativity Scene Competition is very popular (20 Dec.-6 Jan.), in the Afundación headquarters in Santa María square. The classic social nativity scene and the winning nativity scenes in this year’s competition are exhibited here.

Visiting the historic centre of Viveiro at this time of year is like travelling back in time, as the centre is transformed to house an incredible life-size nativity scene, known as Viveiro ante o berce (6 Dec.-14 Jan.),

The Mondoñedo Nativity Scene (1 Dec.-6 Jan.), has an ideal setting, under the welcoming arch of the Fonte Vella. The figures are made of wood and are illuminated. In the same place there are three mailboxes for letters to the kings.

The province of Ourense also has a lot of art for setting up nativity scenes. One of the best known in the capital is the Nativity Scene of Arturo Baltar (Dec. 15-Jan. 6), who made all the figures in terracotta. It is the most Ourense’s nativity scene of all, with the representation of classic places of the city and popular characters of all life.

On the other hand, in the bishopric hall there is the Exhibition Nativity Scenes of the World (11 Dec.-7 Jan.), with more than 150 nativity scenes from the places where there are missions, which provide the cultural touch of each country.

In the Ribeira Sacra we have the Bethlehem of Parada de Sil (15 Nov.-31 Jan.), by José María Campo Herrero, which even has a reproduction of the monastery of Santa Cristina.

In Verín, famous for its carnival, lives Viruca González, who also takes on the task of setting up the nativity scene and, with the help of family and friends, exhibits the Nativity Scene of A Viruca (8 Dec.-6 Jan.), which is special for its representation of Verín’s buildings and typical regional work.

And, for a big crib, the Artisanal Nativity Scene in A Veiga (22 Dec.-7 Jan.), so big that it occupies all the streets. It is a very rustic, ecological and collective nativity scene, which brings together the neighbourhood and the town council for its construction and assembly. It has the representation of the fauna of the area, the nativity scene and the Apalpador.

The province of Pontevedra also hides traditional nativity scenes of great quality. For example, in the region of Caldas, we find a nativity scene of tourist interest: the The Valga Moving Artisanal Nativity Scene (3 Dec.-14 Jan.), organised by the Amigos do Belén (Friends of the Nativity Scene) association. It has thousands of pieces arranged in about 400 m2. The original feature is the incorporation of scenes from the year’s current events, even from the tabloids, and tributes to deceased characters.

In Vigo there are two classics: the Monumental Nativity Scene of Vigo, in the Casa das Artes (25 Nov.-7 Jan.), run by the Nativity Scene group La Morana, and the one at the Afundación headquarters, which exhibits the LVIII Nativity Scene Competition (1 Dec.-7 Jan.).

If we are looking for movement, we can go to Gondomar and visit the Moving Artisanal Nativity Scene (6 Dec.-7 Jan.), in the Neural Centre, with 220 figures in movement and more than a thousand still figures.

In Mos, you should visit the Nativity Scene of the Pazo de Mos (1 Dec.-7 Jan.) and, in the same municipality, in the parish of Cela, the Nativity Scene of Herville (1 Dec.-7 Jan.), put up by the Cultural and Social Association of Herville. A nativity scene full of details and with a surprising setting that simulates day and night.

The Mulleres Rurais de Moraña Association Nativity Scene is set up in the Moraña Multipurpose Social and Cultural Centre (9 Dec.-14 Jan.), with many details of life in the area (recreation of trades, significant buildings…).

And we finish in the beautiful cathedral of Tui, with the Nativity Scenes of Tui (20 Dec.-8 Jan.), consisting of a nativity scene next to the altarpiece of the Expectation and the exhibition “Nativity Scenes of the World”, distributed throughout the naves of the temple.

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