Blessing your family crèche is one way to keep your focus on Christ this advent season.
In the year 1223, while visiting the little mountain town of Greccio (Italy), St. Francis of Assisi organized the first nativity scene. His was a living nativity which even included an ox and a donkey. St. Francis had been inspired by a recent trip to the Holy Land. Just like modern times, gift-giving and materialism had grown to dominate the occasion. St. Francis hoped the nativity scene would return the emphasis of Christmas back upon the worship Christ.
Soon, nativity scenes spread throughout Christendom. “Within a century, virtually every church in Italy, for example, had taken up the practice. Over time, statues, rather than living people and animals, were used, which eventually led to the in-home nativity scenes that are so much a part of Christmas today.”  It is believed that “that the oldest crèche in Italy is a group of marble figures housed in Rome’s Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore and attributed to the sculptor Arnolfo di Cambio; the figures have been variously dated from 1284 to 1289.” 
Artisans in Provence, France, soon began creating crèches. However, these ornate, hand-crafted pieces were far too expensive for the average family. “In 1797, Jean-Louis Lagnel began to make nativity figurines out of clay, making them affordable for most everyone, and in the 20th century, Thérèse Neveu began the tradition of firing the clay figures to make them stronger, thus giving birth to santons as they exist today.” 
Today, “putting up the family creche or manger scene is a delightful activity to help everyone prepare for Christmas. You may enjoy putting up your creche piece by piece, adding a figure each day during Advent. Or you may choose to set it tip all at once but only adding the baby Jesus on Christmas Eve. It is also fun to have the magi (or wise ones) travel from across the room, moving a bit closer day by day, only to reach the manger scene on January 6th, the Feast of the Epiphany.” 
Blessing a Crèche
When your manger is in place, or on Christmas Eve when the Christ Child has been placed in the manger, the family can gather and say the following blessing. One person can say it, or each family member can say a verse. 
Most Holy and Blessed One,
You sent Your Son into the world as a newborn infant;
May the simple manger remind us
of Your arms that hold us.
May blessed Mary remind us
of Your mothering love.
May steadfast Joseph remind us
of Your fathering love.
May the friendly beasts remind us
of the goodness of Your creation.
May the watchful shepherds remind us
of Your care for us.
May the journeying Magi remind us
of the gifts You give, which we receive.
May the glorious angels remind us
of the wonderful news of the birth of our Savior.
(adapted from The Anglican Family Prayer Book )
 Guideposts. (2018, September 06). 8 Things You Should Know About the History of Nativity Scenes. Retrieved November 30, 2020, from https://www.guideposts.org/inspiration/inspiring-stories/stories-of-faith/8-things-you-should-know-about-the-history-of
 Ibid. 1
 Ibid. 1
 Kitch, A. E. (2004). Litanies. In The Anglican family prayer book (Kindle ed., pp. 324-326). Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse Pub.
 Ibid. 4
 Ibid. 4