A tradition in Italy during Christmas time is the living manger. Many towns go way beyond a simple manger scene, and produce a full scale reproduction of Bethlehem. What makes it so special in many cases, is that they have the landscape and existing structures to really make it look and feel real.
Some towns do a better job, and others fail by comparison. This holiday season, there are at least 15 towns doing it, and each one competes with the others to be the best. Last year I saw the manger at the nearby town of Bassano, and thought it couldn’t possibly be outdone. However, many people had told me that the one produced in Chia (a suburb or Soriano) is by far the best there was.
I was skeptical. After all, the people of Soriano would naturally favor the living manger in their own suburb, and Chia is small beyond small. How good can it be? Still, this year I decided to check it out.
I went to Chia on December 26, thinking I really wanted to go back to Bassano. When I stepped into their version of Jesus’ Bethlehem, I was awestruck. They had taken an area of town that was full of babbling brooks, caves, huge rock formations, etc. and literally constructed a massive production. There must have been 500 people in full dress, each doing their unique job: Roman soldiers, Carpenters, Blacksmiths, Baket weavers, etc. I felt as though I had been transported 2,000 years back in time.
It was so amazing, that I believe a trip from the states just to see this would be worth it.