The correct structure of a crib

The crib stable:

For Mary and Joseph, there was no free accommodation in Bethlehem that night or it was too expensive, so they had to settle in a stable where Jesus was born. The stable is used as a backdrop to place the crib figures. It does not matter whether the crib is an Alpine, Oriental or modern style crib. However, the rustic appearance of the nativity scene is important to show that the family comes from poor backgrounds and could not afford accommodation.

Equally important is that the stable is always open and freely visible to the observer. This shows that every person, regardless of nationality and faith, is welcome and welcomed by Jesus.

It is advisable to use a pedestal or floor slab as a base so that the crib and its figures can be set up safely and do not tip over. Natural decorations such as fir branches, straw and leaves give the crib an authentic look. It is also possible to install electric lighting to illuminate individual areas or the entire crib. However, the light should never dazzle the observer.

Already since the Middle Ages, certain places in the crib stable were assigned to the individual persons.

Jesus in the centre

The baby Jesus always lies in the middle, mostly in a feeding bowl. All other figures are positioned around him. It is important that the back of the Jesus child remains free. This means that no person or animal is placed behind him.

The left side - Mary, Ox, Shepherds and Sheep

Maria sits or kneels on the right side of her child - seen from the observer on the left. The ox is placed next to or behind her, even if it does not actually appear in the Gospel of Luke. It is considered to be a kosher animal and symbolizes the people of Israel or Christianity. From the left side of Mary, the shepherds approach with their sheep. They stand for the believers who bring sacrificial animals, food and clothing.

How many shepherds and sheep are used is up to each individual.

The right side - Joseph, Donkey, Holy Three Kings

Joseph is standing on the left side of the baby Jesus. Behind or next to him is the donkey, which is also not mentioned in the Gospel of Luke. It is interpreted as an unclean animal and symbolizes the other believers or pagan peoples. For this reason, with a little distance, the Holy Three Kings are also placed on the right side. Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar are the "Wise Men of the Orient" who give gold, frankincense and myrrh. On the one hand, they stand for the different stages of life with their youth, food and age. On the other hand, their origins in Africa, Asia and Europe are associated with the three continents known at the time.


The main angel is the proclamation angel, which symbolizes the angel Gabriel, who informed the shepherds about the birth of Jesus. As a rule, this angel is mounted above the crib stable. If there is no holder, you can hang it over the stable and let it float there. If necessary, it can also be placed on an elevated cardboard box behind the stable. It is important that it is on a raised position, because it was a heavenly appearance for the shepherds, to which they had to look up.

If several angels are represented, then these are placed to the right or left of the crib.

The star

The star serves the shepherds as a signpost on their way to the stable in Bethlehem. A "normal" star without a tail or a comet star can be chosen, but a star does not necessarily have to be integrated.

When and how long should the Christmas crib be set up?

An exact and/or correct time for the structure of the Christmas crib does not exist in such a way. Many begin to erect their crib at the beginning of Advent, others only shortly before Christmas Eve. It is also up to you whether all the figures are set up at once or whether they are added chronologically step by step.  Traditionally, however, the child Jesus is not placed in the manger until December 24.

How long a crib remains standing is completely up to each individual. Officially, the Christmas season lasts until 2 February. One can also dismantle the crib on the Sunday after January 6th, as most people do, to celebrate the baptism of the Lord.