For a Christian, every Christmas is a special occasion.
Followers of Jesus Christ have commemorated the Lord’s miraculous virgin birth since the beginning of the church through the holiday.
This year marks the 800th anniversary of one of the most enduring and celebrated Christmas traditions.
St. Francis of Assisi has long been credited with the creation of the first Nativity scene in A.D. 1223.
The nobleman-turned-friar and mendicant created the first display of Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus in a cave in the Italian village of Greccio that year, according to the National Catholic Register.
Francis was moved to create the display after his pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
The friar sought to announce the Gospel to the Sultan of Egypt and the Islamic world in the context of the Fifth Crusade at the time.
The first Nativity scene has long been associated with miracles, according to the National Catholic Register.
Hay from the manger in which the figure of the child Jesus was placed is said to have healed the sick.
The Vatican is commemorating the anniversary with a recreation of St. Francis’s Nativity Scene, itself featuring a figure of the saint.
1) the inclusion of St. Francis right at the side of the manger. He was inspired to replicate the Nativity, after returning from pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and wanted to give people the chance to contemplate the poverty of the Incarnate Lord.
— Jonathan Liedl (@JLLiedl) December 9, 2023
Pilgrims have flocked to the scene of the display.
This year’s beautiful Vatican Presepio (Christmas Crib/Nativity Scene), which pays tribute to the first Nativity scene set up by St. Francis of Assisi in the hamlet of Greccio 800 years ago in 1223, was inaugurated tonight. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! pic.twitter.com/vHczP1PzQP
— Catholic Sat (@CatholicSat) December 9, 2023
During a Mass in St. Peter’s Square, Cardinal Vérgez Alzaga described the Nativity scene as a means to understand Christ’s incarnation.
In the back of the Vatican Nativity scene, recreating that of St Francis of Assisi 800 years ago, there is a friar celebrating Mass. Cardinal Vérgez Alzaga, says it “emphasizes how the incarnation of the son of God has remained among us through his body & blood in the Eucharist.” pic.twitter.com/hD1wy83wRf
— Cindy Wooden (@Cindy_Wooden) December 9, 2023
Francis remains one of the most venerated Christian saints across several denominations, with the Franciscan religious order continuing to bear his name to this day.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.