Nativity scene traditions in the villages

Where: Oberperfuss, Zirl, Axams, Birgitz, Götzens, Arzl, Rum

The traditional Tyrolean art of nativity scene building is world renowned and this is almost certainly due to the deep faith of the people in the mountains and their desire to turn the miracle of Christmas into something visible. In the Middle Ages, nativity scenes were made with large figures painted on boards and were initially only built in churches. The tradition finally found its way through monasteries into private homes.

The region around Innsbruck can quite rightly be described as the centre of Tyrolean nativity scene building. Two traditional styles of nativity scenes dominate the picture: Oriental and Tyrolean. Depicting the stable in Bethlehem is not the sole "didactic" goal for nativity scene builders. They also use figures to present other biblical scenes, including the Annunciation with the announcement by the angel Gabriel, the search for an inn, the stable in Bethlehem, the visit from the Three Wise Men and the flight to Egypt. This is why Tyrolean nativity scenes are so diverse and so beautiful.

Even today, it is a tradition in many families to hand carve the nativity figures and to set up the family nativity scene in a creative way each year. Something that usually requires several days of work.

Nativity scene viewings

Where: Oberperfuss, Zirl, Birgitz, Axams, Arzl, Rum; when: between Epiphany and Candlemas on 2 February.

The custom of viewing local nativity scenes flourished in the shadows for many years and is now experiencing a renaissance. Many people in the nativity scene villages take advantage of the Christmas season to visit their families, friends, relatives and acquaintances and admire their nativity scenes. It almost goes without saying that – as with most Tyrolean customs – these visits often also include a little something to drink. During the Christmas season, it's called "Gloriawasser" (Gloria water) and the normal "zum Wohl" (cheers) is replaced by the shortened "Gloria".

Nativity scene museum in Wildermieming - Affenhausen

Where: Affenhausen

The nativity scene museum in Affenhausen represents a life-long dream come true for its founder Erwin Auer. Every nativity scene is a piece of art in itself with masterful background paintings, countless details and delicate figures, as well as varied scenes presented with a variety of lighting effects that even include sunrise and sunset.

Photo ©www.krippenherberge.at

Nativity scenes in Innsbruck

Nativity scenes are at the heart of Christmas customs in Tyrol. Figures made of wood, wax, clay or cardboard populate fantastic landscapes and are constantly being adapted according to the Gospel. These nativity scenes are not only found in private homes, but also in museums, churches and Advent exhibitions. The State Museum in Innsbruck displays a beautiful specimen: a lovingly designed oriental nativity scene.

Something truly special: the Jaufenthaler nativity scene

You can practically feel the spirit of Christmas on the market square in Innsbruck where a mechanical nativity scene delights visitors with free performances every day. The Jaufenthaler nativity scene was donated as a gift to all children and bears the name of its former owner. The technical wonder creates a festive atmosphere that builds excitement in the run up to Christmas. 15 motors move 28 figures, drive a waterfall and make the church bells ring. A Christmas world comes to life.

Daily between 4 pm and 7 pm from December until 6 January. Performances last approx. 25 minutes.

Nativity scenes at the Museum of Tyrolean Folk Art in Innsbruck

Where: Museum of Tyrolean Folk Art in Innsbruck; when: permanent exhibition

Miniatures from the Gospel document the Tyrolean art of nativity scene building from the Baroque era to the present day. You can even play the role of a nativity scene figure yourself thanks to the projection in the entrance area of the nativity scene exhibition.

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