Italian nativity scene

Last year's Christmas crib at St Josephs. Loredana Ciavattella, George Campbell, Father Neil, Valeria Burdon and Riccardo Burdon. with the crib. (1212116AM2)
Last year's Christmas crib at St Josephs. Loredana Ciavattella, George Campbell, Father Neil, Valeria Burdon and Riccardo Burdon. with the crib. (1212116AM2)

A hand-crafted Christmas crib, lovingly created by two Italian sisters in Harrogate, is now on display at a church in Bilton.

The Neapolitan crib, known by its Italian name Il Presepe, is a tradition in the Italian city of Naples where sister creators Valeria Burdon and Loredana Ciavattella are from.

With the help of a third sister, Elena, in Italy, the family have created a full nativity scene featuring hand painted porcelain miniature characters.

“It’s a reproduction of Bethlehem at the time that Jesus was born,” said Valeria Burdon, 42, from Oatlands Drive.

She has been enlisting the help of local families and schoolchildren to create the crib, which has taken five years to complete with additional characters added every year.

“It tries to capture that time, the three wise men, the shepherds,” she said.

“It’s tradition in Naples, if you go into any church in Italy you will see a nativity scene like this.

“It’s something I always wanted to do, it reminds me of my own family Christmases as a child.

“I started doing it five years ago, I wanted to remember the times when I was little and I used to do with my family.

“Every time I walked into a church here I missed that - for me the nativity symbolises Christmas.”

This year she has had additional help from the Regan family from Bilton, including parents Geoffrey and Agnes, children Armande, Ariane, Celine, Lucie and Sylvie.

And the crib has become an instant hit with local schoolchildren and families who have visiting it since it was blessed in a ceremony at St Joseph’s Church on December 8.

This is the second year such a blessing has been held at the church for the crib and last year it proved very popular.

“It’s a wonder, children spend a long while looking at it, there is so much to see,” she said. “It’s quite a joy, especially for the children.”

The Christmas crib is now on display at St Joseph’s Church on Skipton Road in Bilton and church members, families, schoolchildren and residents are all invited to visit it and give donations which will go to charity in the run up to Christmas.

To find out more about the crib and its display, or the opening times for St Joseph’s Church, visit its website at www.stjosephsharrogate.org uk.