Customs: But Once a Year

St. Francis of Assisi made the first crèche—or so his loyal biographer, St. Bonaventura, says—and it was a double success. The tableau lent a drama to the saint's sermon on Christmas Eve in 1223, and the hay later "proved a marvellous remedy for sick beasts and a prophylactic against divers other plagues.'' Since then, thousands and thousands of creches have been made, some commissioned by great lords, some modeled after master paintings, some encrusted with jewels, and some even designed to be wound up and set moving. But the most appealing creches...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!