Make your own Nativity

The Nativity tradition goes back to the early century of the Christian era, and the connected themes and iconography have inspired works of art for almost two thousand years. In Italy in houses, churches, schools it is still customary in the weeks before Christmas to join in the making of a small representation of the religious events.

The "Presepe"

Alongside with Christmas tree decorations, shops offer on sale small clay, wooden or plastic figures of the Virgin, Child, St. Joseph, the ox and ass, shepherds and sheep, along with staples, small houses, livestock, paper for the sky, synthetic musk and snow. But even if you buy the figures, there's a lot of work (also because everyone wants to join) in assembling and pasting.

A paper crib

Here you can have a try at assembling from two sheets of paper a small nativity which, once finished, will look like this. You'll need scissors, glue, crayons if you choose the black and white version, and some imagination to add your personal touch. I've tested it with my 10-year-old Alice and she went along up to the very end, when she had some trouble in finding two labels to block the hut (they're on BACK). Anyway, the finished nativity should look like the image on your left. You can also fix small lights on the back, add some decorations, synthetic snow, etc.

Instructions for downloading

  1. Choose if you want the black and white or the coloured version
  2. Click on FRONT OF NATIVITY, and save the image to a directory on your hard disk (right-click on the image and choose "Save image as", DO NOT use the "save" from the ile menu, this will save this file you are reading and not the image)
  3. Come back here (with the "Back" button of your browser), click BACK OF NATIVITY and proceed as above
  4. Then print off-line

Instructions for printing from your browser

  1. Choose if you want the black and white or the coloured version
  2. Click on FRONT OF NATIVITY and wait for the whole picture to appear (let's hope fast)
  3. Go to the menu file of your browser and choose print
  4. Come back with the "Back" button of your browser, click BACK OF NATIVITY and proceed as above.
If you're clever with your printer, you may also print the two parts on one sheet of light cardboard, but take care not to turn the second image upside down (the two trees must remain with their tops both downward). However printing two sheets and then pasting them together does not make much difference.

Instructions for colouring

The big images are black and white (2-color gifs), so if you want to color them with a graphic software, you will have to change the format by saving again as bmp, tif, or any other format you can deal with (for example in Paint Shop Pro you should choose Colors from the menubar, then Increase color depth and finally 16 million colors) and save again as bmp or tif). You might also resize the images, but maintain the proportion and take care that the two images are the same size.

Instructions for assembling

  1. Color the drawings if you downloaded or printed the black and white nativity
  2. Paste the two sheets together, and wait for the glue to take hold
  3. Cut along the dotted lines.
  4. Fold along solid lines following the guide arrows
  5. Insert the various labels in the proper slot and fix them with adhesive.

Download links