Christmas crib

Nativity scenes become increasingly elaborate





"Today's visitors are tomorrow's exhibitors" is the motto of the nativity scene exhibition in the village of Balerna in the southern canton of Ticino. Close to the Italian border, the show, which runs until January 6, presents Christmas art from both countries.

Nativity scenes draw their inspiration from the Gospel of Luke, which relates the story of Jesus's birth in a Bethlehem stable. This Catholic Christmas tradition is usually ascribed to St Francis of Assisi.

Over the centuries, the nativity scene - also known as crèche or crib - has become increasingly elaborate, making its way from churches into people's homes, and leaving Italy for destinations abroad.

Today, nativity scenes are a real art form, with a wide variety of styles, materials and representations.

Over the past few decades, museums as well as enthusiasts and festivals have helped boost interest in this Christmas tradition. Among them is the exhibition in Balerna, which has been organised by Flavio and Lucio Negri since 2006. The father-and-son team put nativity scenes on display from both sides of the border in a building dating back to the 16th century.

For many visitors, it's also the first stop before taking part in a course organised by the Negris, whose goal is to pass on their passion. photographer Christoph Balsiger was a close observer of their preparations ahead of the exhibition.

(Pictures: Christoph Balsiger,; text: Sonia Fenazzi,

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