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By Sarah de Guandique
Nativity scenes take place all over the world during the Christmas season. They come in different sizes and materials, full of colors and decorations. Nativity scenes adorn Panamanian homes, continuing one of the most enduring Christmas traditions passed from generation to generation.
Putting together a nativity scene encompasses the virtues of love, brotherhood and sharing and is part of the spirit of Christmas. In Panama, many homes and businesses keep alive the tradition, displaying elaborate scenes with donkeys, sheep and shepherds and of course, the Holy Family.
In Panama City, one of the most emblematic nativity scenes is located on 50th Street, at the Assa Insurance Company`s branch office which displays life-size figures of the holy family along with the three wise men.
Nuestra Señora de la Merced Church, located in Casco Antiguo has since last year, thanks to a donation from one of the parishioners, housed one of the largest nativity scenes of the area, with over 300 pieces representing 17 scenes from the life of Jesus. The nativity scene can be visited daily throughout the year. It is open to the public -Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday all day until 5 p.m.
Another beautiful nativity scene can be seen in the Base del Comando General, del Servicio Nacional Aeronaval off the Pan American Highway. This nativity scene has huge figures of the holy family on Christmas Eve, together with a colorful Christmas tree visible to cars traveling towards Arraiján.
Carrying on a 21 year tradition, the Herrera family in the province of Veraguas, create at their home every Christmas, a huge nativity scene which has proved to be a huge visitor attraction in the area. The pieces of the scene, whether of clay or wood are all over the house.
This tradition, arises from the generosity of Veragüense, Anel Herrera, resident of the district Las Palmeras in Santiago, who together with his family opens the doors of his house to the public throughout the month of December and part of January, so that everyone can appreciate and share with them the celebration of the birth of Jesus.
Panamanian nativity scenes are also included in an international competition being held in Rome, Italy, from late November until January 2016. Two scenes, by the artist, Allex Alberto Saavedra and Cocle craftsman, Carlos Soto, are participating in the competition. Both exhibits contain materials from Panama and are a reflection of the country’s traditions.
This event has been celebrated in the birthplace of Catholicism for forty years and it is not the first occasion that Panama has had a presence in this exhibition, although it is the first time that there have been two entries from the country. In total, 167 nativity scenes from 34 countries are shown, competing in one of five categories. Judging takes place on Friday, January 11.