Mary, Joseph and a host of shepherds and magi gather around the infant Jesus where he lies in a manger. They are figures in a critical moment of religious and world history -- but this time they are just a few inches tall and made of cloth, ceramic and clay.
The Christmas crèche, or nativity display, is a beloved tradition in many Christian and Catholic communities and is often credited to St. Francis of Assisi. During a visit to the town of Grecio, Francis organized a midnight Mass in the public square where he set up the a live nativity scene.
The tradition of building nativity models developed in the centuries following St. Francis' Mass, and the displays came to be known as "crèches" -- also the French word for "manger."
Take a look at the intricate and varied nativity displays below: