How to set up a Nativity Scene | ForeverBarcelona

This post contains affiliate or sponsored links. We might be paid for posting them or if you click on them or buy through them. 
If the affiliate link would increase your costs, we wouldn’t use it. Your trust is more important than any commission. More about our links policy here.

Nativity set up

How Is The Nativity Scene Set Up In Barcelona


Setting up a Nativity scene set is a Christmas tradition that children love: Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without Nativity scenes (pessebre in Catalan or belén in Spanish)!

Families will set it up a couple of weeks before Christmas, and the whole process of setting it up will keep the kids entertained for at least a whole afternoon (even a day, if you take them to the Christmas market first). In today’s post you’ll learn how to set up your own.



Go Shopping​

Visit a local Christmas Market (the two best in Barcelona are in front of the Old Cathedral and in front of the Sagrada Familia church). There, buy a miniature stable, little figures of the baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the mule and the bull, an angel to hang on top of your stable, a star, the Three Wise Men and their pages, and as many shepherds and other decoration stuff as you like.
Get also some starry-night paper, a couple of oak three trunks and some muss. And for a perfectly Catalan nativity scene set, don’t forget a “Caganer” (the famous “pooping man” that we’ll hide somewhere). Don’t have a Christmas market nearby? My favorite nativity scene makers are those from HolyArt (and you can get them from Amazon, like I did when my 4yo sneaked our Virgin Mary to show it to her classmates and of course lost it…).


Choose a place to set up your Nativity scene​

Back home, pick a place of honor for your Christmas nativity scene. It can be an auxiliary table against a wall, a mid-high shelf, the top of a chest of drawers… Free it from anything you keep on top and cover it with some old newspapers to protect it.


Arrange the setting​

First of all, pin the starry night-paper on the wall as a background. Then place the Stable in a corner, and hang the star above on the wall. Put the oak tree trunks lying against the wall and the night-paper: they’ll be the “mountains”. Use some sawdust to create a path across the board leading to the stable, a line of aluminum foil to make a river, and cover what’s left of the shelf with muss (it’ll be the grass). 

As a final touch, use thyme branches as trees, flour as snow… At the Christmas market you can also find extra items such as a bridge for your river, a well and houses to place on top of the “mountains”.


Set up the Cave Scene and the shepherds​

The Baby Jesus goes inside the Stable, in the center with Mary and Joseph to his sides, and right behind must go the bull and the mule. Then hang the angel on the edge of the rooftop, and arrange some figures of shepherds in front of the Stable, worshiping the Baby Jesus. 

You can then display the rest along the path, as if they were on their way to the Stable. If you also bought an Annunciation set (tree with angel, shepherds and bonfire), find a place for them over the moss not too close to the stable. Extra points if you got little figures of animals such as sheep, poultry or cows to go with your shepherds.


The Three Wise Men​

Your Nativity scene set isn’t made just to be looked at: you have to interact with it too! And this is where the Three Wise Men come into action: Every day you must move them one step closer to the Stable, so that they arrive there on January 6th, the Epiphany Day.

AND BONUS! What about the Caganer? Is there really a Pooping Man?​


The Caganer (Pooping Man)

Weren’t you wondering why would you have a figure hidden so nobody can see it? That’s precisely the point! The Caganer is actually a little figure of a farmer squatting and… pooping! Would you poop in the middle of the way or would you hide? The answer is clear, isn’t it?

But we Catalans are naughty, so when we have guests, our kids always challenge them to find the hidden pooping-man of our Christmas Nativity set! It’s a silly kids game, but it’s funny…As a final touch, use thyme branches as trees, flour as snow… At the Christmas market you can also find extra items such as a bridge for your river, a well and houses to place on top of the “mountains”.

Coming to Barcelona for Christmas? Click here to discover where to see a life size Nativity scene set in Barcelona as well as other local traditions.

Have fun setting up your Nativity scene set!​


Author Marta Laurent Veciana


Marta is the founder of ForeverBarcelona. She is a passionate tour guide that loves Barcelona and loves writing too. She is the main author of our Blog, and is committed to sharing her knowledge about Barcelona and her best tips with our readers.

Need more inspiration?

Our 100% FREE Barcelona Collection will give you everything you need to organize the trip of your lifetime to Barcelona.


Last update on 2024-04-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Scroll to Top