Living Cribs at a Home

‘Presepi’ (nativity cribs) in Italy can also be ‘viventi’, or living, with people rather than figurines enacting the protagonists in that great happening two millennia ago. For many years we played characters in Equi Terme’s brilliant presepe. One year, for instance, I was a wise man and another year a Roman governor. For more of this presepe do see my following posts:

Last week-end we visited another living crib: that of Marlia. This was a particularly special crib as it takes place in a’ Casa di Riposo’, a place which in the UK was once called a geriatric institution but now could be described as a rest home.

After a procession from Marlia’s stately parish church (which has been recently well-restored) the participants met before the little stable erected in the home’s main courtyard.


The new-born babe is always the latest to have seen daylight in the parish and the mum was suitably ecstatic.


Of the three wise men, Balthazar, King of Tarsus and Egypt, is traditionally black-skinned and carries myrrh.  Caspar, King of Sheba, brings frankincense and Melchior, King of Arabia, gold. In this case Balthazar was someone who immediately recognized my wife as they had recently met on the same train from Lucca.


Inclusiveness was also apparent in the participation of the home’s residents who enacted various occupations like bread-making, wool-spinning, fish-mongering and wood-working.


In the home’s extensive grounds a pen contained some other new births.


Marlia’s living crib has become an established event in the local community’s festivities. I’ve been a few times for medical check-ups at the adjacent heath centre but it was only thanks to Sandra that I found out about the crib. Who knows? Perhaps one day we’ll be enacting parts as inmates of the home….





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