El Nacimiento

Photograph by ©Omar Upegui R.

Nacimiento” is a Spanish word.  It means the birthplace; where someone was born.  El Nacimiento is a Christmas tradition in Panama that has been passed on from one generation to the next one.

The photograph above is a nacimiento of baby Jesus in a humble stable surrounded by his parents, shepherds, a cow, sheep and a donkey.  The three Magi are usually there too, with their presents of frankincense, myrrh, and gold.

The representation of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the angels, the donkey, the cow, and the stable is the symbolic celebration of the coming of The Lord, brought to America by the Roman Catholic misssionaries at the turn of the XVth century from Spain.

Many devoted people in Panama will dedicate time, labor and money to purchase a nacimiento; the most expensive the better, in order to show off.  However, in the big scheme of things, a humble one will do.  What really matters is the remembrance of the birth of the Saviour of the world.

My wife has prepared our nacimiento—shown above— since we got married and moved to our current home, 36 years ago.  It is the same one—not a single item has been added.  Normally it is removed every year on January 6th, the day of the celebration of the three Magi—Los Tres Reyes Magos.

During the Christmas festivities, you will find nacimientos in homes, private and public offices, public parks, and of course, churches.

Good Day!


6 thoughts on “El Nacimiento”

  1. Hola Omar,
    We have outdoor figures of Jesus, Mary and Joseph that we set up each year. This year I had some old lumber from a treehouse I am building for the grand kids so I built a stable around the figures. The weather beaten wood makes a nice addition to the scene.
    My cuñada collects and displays nacimientos from around the world in her house. She has them in glass, stone, wood. Almost any material that can be shaped she has. It takes her longer to display each year but it is her passion. We brought her a stone carved set from Panama on one of our trips decades ago and it may have started her hobby.

    1. Hola Jim y Nena:

      The collection of nacimientos is a loving hobby and many people spend endless hours decorating them. I like your idea of settung up an outdoor birth scene and building a stable around it. I assume that you also light them during the evenings to make the scene glow.

      They are so beautiful to enjoy as you drive around the city. Being Fort Worth a large urban center, there must be a generous amount of nacimienos, and considering the Mexican heritage of the city.

      Good for your cuñada and her hobby with nacimientos from around the world. If you could take a picture of it, I surely would like to take a look at it.

      Happy Holidays!

    2. Hola Omar,
      I DO need to get photos and I will email you some soon. At the moment, it is minus 7 grados so it may be a couple of days before we venture out with the camera. 🙂 While waiting click the link of a neighborhood nearby with a 40 year history of doing Christmas lights to the maximum.

      We also wait until King’s Day to start removing decorations. We hand out gifts to the kids and grandkids to explain the meaning. Just another Panamanian tradition like Mother’s Day for Nena, twice a year.


      1. Hola Jim y Nena:

        Most grateful for the link depicting gorgeous Christmas decorations in your city. Wow, what a way to celebrate Christmas.

        Don’t worry about the photos right now. At that temperature you would turn into a statue of ice. I’m a patient man, and can wait for better weather.

        Día de Reyes, is not celebrated much in Panama as you probably know. Our big days are Día de las Madres, and of course, Carnavales. That’s when Panamanian are serious about having fun. 🙂

  2. Not only is your nativity scene (as we call them) lovely, it was interesting to me that you follow the custom of taking it down on Epiphany, January 6. Many people don’t realize that the twelve days of Christmas come between December 25 and January 6. I always leave my decorated tree up until Epiphany, too. It’s nice to enjoy it for a longer time.

    1. Today I learned something new in English: “nativity scene”. Thank you for that. For your information, my wife was born on January 6th, so it is not difficult to forget that it is time time to close the the Christmas chapter. In our tradition, the next wild event is Mardi Gras or Carnavales as we call them down here.

      Pundits claim that Panama is one of the happiest countries in the world. I believe this to be true. Our year is full of holidays saturated with dancing, costumes, liquor and “la vida loca” (the crazy life).

      As soon as Christmas and New Year is over, we are thinking of the feast of the flesh or “Carne Vale”. And so goes the merry-go-round of “la vida loca“.

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