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Nativity Scenes Buying Guide

Nativity scenes are a familiar Christmas decoration. Some families pass theirs from generation to generation, while others seek out a version that suits their personal holiday style. Most nativity scenes have several key pieces, including Mary, Joseph, the Baby Jesus, and the Angel; sets can be enlarged, too, with additional people and animals.  

Types of Nativity Scenes

Types of Nativity Scenes

Inspired by the live nativity scenes churches often hold at Christmastime, nativity scenes for the home can be found in a variety of types, making them a good complement to a range of holiday decorating styles. Based on where you will use yours and how much room you have, there are different types to consider, including wood, porcelain, glass, metal, and other materials, as well as artistic style and indoor versus outdoor use.


Many home nativity scenes are carved out of wood. Review the type of wood to ensure it is long-lasting and to find out what kind of care it needs.

Porcelain or Glass

Porcelain or glass is also often used to create nativity scenes. Because of the material and fabrication style, these nativity scenes may break more easily.


While less common than wood or porcelain, metal -- commonly pewter -- is another material used to create nativity scenes.

Additional Materials

More rare than wood, porcelain, or metal, unusual materials including wax, fabric, terra-cotta, or even woven straw are sometimes used to craft nativity scenes.

Artistic Style

Nativity scenes vary in type based on artistic style. Some are fairly realistic, while others are inspired by folk art. Abstract varieties can also be found.

Painted or Unpainted

The original material used to create the nativity scene can be left unfinished. Or paint or glaze can be applied -- sometimes in very fine detail -- to add color and texture to figurines.

Country of Origin

Germany, Italy, and Spain are just a few of the countries that have specific styles or craftspeople recognized for their nativity scene creations.

Indoor vs. Outdoor

While most nativity scenes are used indoors, others are designed for display outside. Make sure to review how the materials will stand up to temperatures and precipitation.

Purchase Considerations

Purchase Considerations

Even after you've settled on the type of nativity scene that would best complement your holiday decorating, there are purchase considerations to review. Some nativity scenes come in sets of varying sizes, while others allow you to add individual pieces as budget allows. Many include a manger, pyramid, or base as a backdrop for the nativity scene. The size of the pieces should also be a consideration before buying a nativity scene.

Sets vs. Individual Pieces

Some nativity scenes are sold as sets, which typically include at least Mary, Joseph, and the Baby Jesus; others have shepherds, the Magi, and an angel. If you would like to add to your set over time, make sure you can purchase pieces from year to year.

Manger, Pyramid, or Base

Whether sold as part of a set or individually, a manger, pyramid, or base provides a good backdrop and focal point for a nativity scene.


Nativity scenes vary in size from several inches to several feet high. Plan where you will place and store yours before deciding on size.

Holiday on sale
Candy Cane Lane
$34.75 $139.00
at Home Depot

Celebrate the true meaning of Christmas with this elegant Nativity Yard Art. You get a 36 in. Holy Family set and a 32 in. 3 Kings... set. Each is constructed of hand-painted, hammered metal and accented with touches of glitter. Minimal assembly required. read more

Cane Lane Holiday Ornaments & Decor 36 in. Nativity Set Hammered Metal Yard Art 66825_THD-MP1
The Company Store

Wool felt holiday garland. Ornamented with holly leaves and berries. Perfect for wrapping around a tree or draping over a mantel, ...doorway or staircase. 72 long. Spot clean. Imported. Exclusively ours. Adorned with holly leaves and berries, this long felt Christmas garland can be wrappe read more

Felt Garland, OS - The Company Store
Tree Classics
$79.99 $149.00
at Tree Classics

Relish the heartwarming, timeless colors of Christmas with our Classic Holiday Unlit Artificial Christmas Garland on your doorway ...or mantel. With lush, realistic pine needles dotted with gold-coated pine cones, leaf accents, and red berries, this 9-inch Christmas garland brings holiday cheer to any home. read more

9' Classic Holiday Artificial Christmas Garland - Unlit
Tree Classics
$69.99 $149.00
at Tree Classics

The 9-foot Countryside Unlit Artificial Christmas Garland features a wonderful blend of Real-Feel PE and classic PVC needles adorn...ed with pine cones, balls of twigs, acorns, and berries to evoke the captivating warmth of the holidays. read more

Tree Classics 9' Countryside Artificial Christmas Garland - Unlit
Tree Classics
$129.99 $279.00
at Tree Classics

The Venetian Elegance Artificial Christmas Garland is a cheerful Christmas decoration that has become one of Tree Classics tried a...nd true favorites. Measuring 20 inches in length, our garland is pre-lit with clear lights, adding an immaculate radiance to your home during the holidays. With its lively colors and sparkle, families are sure to become more excited as Christmas day approaches. read more

20" Tree Classics Venetian Elegance Artificial Christmas Garland-Clear
Alexander Taron
$127.99 $160.99

The Ulbricht Traditional Black Forest Man Nutcracker is incredibly crafted and makes a charming addition to your collection. This ...nutcracker depicts a traditional Black Forest man and was hand-crafted in Germany. It's an original Christian Ulbricht/Seiffener Nussknackerhaus nutcracker and is carved from solid wood and painstakingly hand-painted. Black Forest man is highly detailed. His felt-brimmed cap is decorated with a jaunty feather and ribbon trim. His kindly, hand-painted face, ribbon accented outfit, and brass studs add detail. In his hands he holds a ribbon-laced May pole and a beautifully rendered cuckoo clock. Both are perfect examples of Black Forest tradition. This Black Forest man is so well-crafted he is sure to become an instant family treasure. Wunderbar! About Alexander Taron, Inc. For more than half a century, the Taron Company has been delighting customers and collectors with traditional European gifts. These exquisite hand-crafted products range from nutcrackers and incense burners to ornaments and cuckoo clocks; unique and collectible, they make unforgettable gifts regardless the occasion. Originally founded in 1949, Alexander Taron remains dedicated to providing high-quality items at great value. Decorative nutcracker/Black Forest man. Handmade in Germany from quality wood. Dimensions: 4.5W x 4D x 9.5H in.. Original Christian Ulbricht/Seiffener Nussknackerhaus nutcracker. Hand-carved and hand-painted with exception detail. read more

32650 Black Forest Man Nutcracker
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