In Europe, the start of Advent signals a very special time and commitment for the family.
In fact, in Italy, the festivities start on the day of the Immaculate Conception every December 8 wherein families begin setting up their belen or the nativity scene. This heartwarming tradition involves the entire household as it prepares to welcome no other than the Baby Jesus. (Read: 4 Celebrity Christmas Homes We Can’t Wait to See This Year)
In the Philippines, setting up the belen is also considered a family bonding. So as we enter the second week of Advent, why don’t you gather the whole family and make the season a memorable one by setting up your nativity scene while staying safe at home?
Here are ten tips to keep in mind from Albert Finizio, president of the Italian Association of Friends of Presepio.
#1: Set up the Belen With Your Children
Set up the nativity scene with your little ones— children and grandchildren— so that they may fall in love with this tradition! (Read: An Expert’s Tip to Instilling Faith in Young Children)
#2: Choose the Right Spot for Your Belen
Reserve an important part of your house. It is best to choose an area where many family members gather and spend time together. Before beginning, make a small drawing to guide you. (Read: 5 Tips to Setting up Your Prayer Space at Home)
#3: Be Mindful of Perspective
Do not mix the styles and costumes of the statues, and be careful with the proportions and the perspective. You may opt to place large statuettes and buildings in the foreground, while smaller ones can be placed in the background so they look like they are far away. You may also place buildings at different heights to give some realism and take away monotony. Remember: Do not place characters in a single file— make small groups to represent a slice of life.
#4: Make Your Belen Accessible
It’s advisable that you make your belen easily accessible. This way, you can straighten out a statue that falls down without too much fuss.
#5: Make Room for the Nativity Scene
Make sure to clear enough room for the nativity scene. This helps put the attention to the most important part of your belen — the birth of Jesus Christ. (Read: Joy of Advent: Why Are the Christmas Tree and Nativity Scene Important?)
#6: Be Careful of Lighting and Electricity
The lighting of the nativity scene requires care. First, you have to make sure that the electrical materials you use are of good quality so as to prevent electrical fires. Second, you have to be conscious of the lights you choose— low-voltage lights such as LED consume less electricity, while cold, white light gives a clearer view of the display. And remember to always switch off the lights at night or when they have been on for quite some time.
#7: Stage the Nativity Scene
With moss, bark, and cork, cover the base of the statuettes and cover joints and holes. You can use finely cut moss for grass and fake hay to stage the scene. (Read: Cop These Home Design Tips From Bea Alonzo and Maris Racal)
#8: Mind the Details in Your Belen
Your belen may have all the characters and displays you seek, but is everything put well together? Make sure that all pins, tape, and other materials are well-hidden so that they cannot be seen in your construction.
#9: Less Is Always More
There’s no need to overdo your belen with special effects or mechanical movements. The more simple it is, the better!
#10: Revisit Tradition
Almost everyone dismantles the nativity on the evening of the Epiphany, January 6. Consider revisiting the tradition of keeping it up until February 2, the day of the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord.