St. Francis of Assisi & The Tradition of the Christmas Crèche, by Maria Augusta Von Trapp

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By Maria Augusta Von Trapp, Catholic Exchange, Dec. 24, 2021

Maria Augusta von Trapp, was the stepmother and matriarch of the Trapp Family Singers. She wrote The Story of the Trapp Family Singers which was published in 1949. The story served as the inspiration for the 1956 film The Trapp Family, which in turn inspired the Broadway musical The Sound of Music (1959) and the 1965 film of the same name.

When asked about the origin of these old folk customs, one sometimes finds it hard to answer. They have come down to us through the centu­ries out of the gray past. Some are so old that they go back to pre-Christian times, having been baptized together with the people and turned from pagan into Christian customs. But, once in a while, we know how one or another custom originated.

The Christmas crib, as we have it today, goes back to St. Francis of Assisi. Not that he was the one who made the first crèche; this devotion is almost as old as the Church. We are told that the very place of Christ’s birth and the manger in which He lay “wrapped in swaddling clothes” were already venerated in Bethlehem in the first centuries of the Christian era. Later, devout people substituted a silver manger for the original one and built a basilica over it, and, with the centuries, the veneration of the Holy Child lying in the manger spread all over the Christian countries. ….