25 December 2021, Kolkata: The Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee during the Christmas Eve inaugurated a special exhibition on the various pictures of St. Francis of Assisi - the Patron Saint of Environment and the originator of the tradition of cribs - on Christmas eve. The Archbishop of Calcutta, His Grace, Thomas D’Souza, Kolkata Police Commissioner, Soumen Mitra, Swiss Ambassador in India, Dr Ralf Heckner, Mr Umesh Chowdhary, Swiss Honorary Consul in Kolkata, industrialist Mr Pramode Kumar Agarwal and other dignitaries were present. The pictorial displays of St Francis of Assisi at the exhibition, have been conceptualised by Church Art and would be installed in the Cathedral premises to inspire and motivate people to love and protect Mother Earth.
“This year, as Christians heed to the call of green Christmas, tradition recalls a Catholic saint who returned to nature by promoting “presepio vivente” - a living crib. A crib, is a depiction of the birth of Jesus as described in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. The origin of the Christmas Crib or Manger or Nativity scene is often first ascribed to Saint Francis of Assisi, who, in 1223 AD, celebrated the `Feast of the Nativity’ in a new way that led to a new devotional practice popular even today,” said Fr Franklin Menezes, Parish Priest of The Cathedral of the Most Holy Rosary, Burrabazar. The Cathedral was founded on 1799.
Fr. Franklin Menezes called on everyone to respect and protect Mother nature and earth’s environment. The Cathedral is celebrating a green Christmas to spread environmental awareness and practice in daily life the conservation of nature and its resources.
Nativity scenes exhibit figures representing the infant Jesus, his mother Mary, and Joseph. Other characters from the nativity story such as shepherds, the Magi, and angels may be displayed near the manger. Distinctive nativity scenes and traditions have been created around the world and are displayed during the Christmas season in churches, homes, shopping malls, and other venues, and occasionally on public places and in public buildings.
The Vatican has displayed a scene in St. Peter's Square near its Christmas tree since 1982 and the Pope has for many years blessed the mangers of children assembled in St. Peter's Square for a special ceremony. In 2015, the first ever crib set depicting Jesus’ birth from India, designed by Kolkata-based organization Church Art, was added to the International Nativity Museum of Bethlehem’s collection of 223 nativity representations from over 93 countries.
The International Nativity Museum in Bethlehem, a UNESCO Heritage Site, is currently located close to the Church of Bethlehem which is considered to be the spot where Jesus was born. Local lore passed down from ancient times holds that the three travelers or Magi who were guided by a star had passed through this path where the International Nativity Museum now stands.
History tells us that St. Francis of Assisi was inspired by his visit to the Holy Land in 1219 where he had been shown Jesus's traditional birthplace. It was in 1223 that the first crèche was celebrated in the woods of Greccio near Assisi, on Christmas Eve.
St. Francis’ idea of bringing Bethlehem into one’s own town spread quickly all over the Christian world, and soon after the death of Francis in 1226 there were Christmas cribs in churches and homes. The home crib became popular in Catholic Europe after 1600, owing, it is said, to the efforts of the Capuchins.