How to set up a manger

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Learn how to set up a manger to rejoice in the birth of baby Jesus at Christmas

Learn how to set up a manger to rejoice in the birth of baby Jesus at Christmas

‘Tis the season for holiday lights, festive decorations and nativity scenes. Nothing says “Christmas” like a portrayal of Jesus’ birth. Creating the perfect depiction requires preparation, equipment and a knowledge of events surrounding the Holy occasion.

Fortunately, knowing how to set up a manger and designing such a scene is fun and fulfilling, and can become a family tradition that helps to keep the religious meaning of the Christmas holiday alive at this time of year. 

Acquire Your Pieces

Before you can create such a scene, you’ll need decide what you want to work with. A variety of Holy family figurines and nativity sets are available for purchase. Such scenes come in just about every size. Therefore, if you’re looking to set a scene on your piano or in your front yard, you are sure to find what you are looking for.

Larger scenes may require a little handiwork on your part. For instance, you may be able to fashion a makeshift manger out of an altered dog house or a few pieces of wood. Your manger set-up may also require you to create your own cradle. However, depending on the size and what you are looking for, you may be able to purchase such items.

Churches may also have old pieces they are willing to donate to you, or give to you in exchange for a small donation. Before you spend money on large scenes, contact a local church to inquire about their leftover pieces. You may be able to purchase a nice set for less money than you could at the store. 

Choose Your Location

If you plan on setting up your nativity scene outdoors, you’ll want to select a spot that is highly visible, but keeps your pieces somewhat protected. For instance, you don’t want the mail person or newspaper deliverer to accidentally knock down your set-up, but you want passersby to be able to view your work.

Take a walk around the perimeter of your yard and select a location that is seen from the road, but is not totally accessible.

If creating an indoor scene, find a location in your home that shares the same characteristics — easily seen but not easily accessible. The latter is especially important if you have pets or children who may want to play with the figures or could accidentally knock them over. Choosing a high area, such as a table or shelf, could be your best option.

Select Your Cast

Before you set up your scene, you’ll need to decide just how elaborate you intend for it to be. For instance, featuring only the central characters of the scene — Mary, Jesus and Joseph — is acceptable, or you can create a larger scene and place the three wise men, angels and barn animals, as well. You could also go with something in between.

Size is often a consideration when it comes to how detailed you are able to make your scene. If you are creating the scene outdoors, you will likely have more room than you would inside. However, anything goes and as long as you are happy with the outcome, that is all that matters.

After you have chosen who you are going to feature, you know need to decide on their location. Traditionally, Jesus is in the manger, with Mary and Joseph on either side or sitting next to each other with Jesus next to Mary. If you plan on featuring other characters, place the three wise men on one side of the manger, and the angels and animals spread throughout the cast.
To make your nativity scene authentic, wait to put Jesus in the manger until Christmas morning. Doing so holds with tradition and sticks to the story closely. However, it is your nativity scene and you can set it up any way you would like.

Knowing how to set up a manger can help you enjoy the Christmas holiday even more, and teach others about Christian tradition.


Home and Garden Ideas: How to Set Up a Nativity Scene