A Celebration of Nativity Scenes From Ireland, China and Beyond
“I like to see the Nativity reflected in so many different ways,” says Father Adrian Farrelly, a collector of crèches from around the world.
A lifelong interest in the Nativity has led Newry Dominican Priest Father Adrian Farrelly to collect Nativity scene from around the world. To date he has collected more than 50 different Nativities, each reflecting the Catholic culture of the country from which they originate.
Father Farrelly explains, “The heart of Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus. I've noticed more and more that images of the Nativity are becoming less and less common and if I go into a store to buy Christmas cards, it's so difficult for me to find cards with a Nativity scene.”
“For many years I have tried to collect Nativity scenes from around the world and I am always amazed at how many Nativities reflect the local indigenous people and their culture. I like to see the Nativity reflected in so many different ways.”
Father Adrian explained the origin of Nativity scenes, “Saint Francis of Assisi is credited with creating the first live nativity scene in 1223. He was inspired after a visit to the Holy Land and to Bethlehem, where he had seen the original birthplace of Jesus.”
“From that time onwards, distinctive Nativity scenes and traditions have been created worldwide and displayed during the Christmas season in churches, homes and shopping malls, and in public buildings.
Father Farrelly’s collection is forming part of a social media showcase by EWTN Ireland. Father Adrian pointed to a number of specific Christmas scenes. One of the first Nativity scenes he highlighted is from China.
“The scene reflects the Chinese culture. The figures were hand carved in China. This Nativity scene reminds us of the Chinese Christians — Christ's birth is not celebrated in China, and Christmas Day is not a public holiday. It's just an ordinary working day. In 1949 it became an offense to celebrate Christmas in China.
“Christians still celebrate the birth of Jesus in private and more Chinese are beginning to celebrate Christmas as a secular time for a party. We remember the Chinese at Christmas and especially Chinese Catholics who find it hard to practice their faith."
Other Nativities include scenes from Peru featuring aspects of Andean Culture, where local craftspeople make Nativities for a living. The tradition of Nativities in Poland began in the 19th century where the scenes went on display in Kraków Cathedral and were of great importance in troubled times. The Irish Nativity scene is hand knitted with extraordinary detail.