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Nativity Scenes or Belenes are an incredibly important part of Christmas in Spain, with every single household in Spain having one (usually homemade) and all public buildings displaying these incredibly detailed scenes on a grand scale.
In Alicante itself, hidden away behind the San Nicolas Cathedral on the edge of the Old Town in Alicante, is an incredible museum devoted just to these unbelievable works of art. Open all year round, the Museo de Belenes is situated in Calle San Augustin in Alicante and admission is free.
Legend has it that the first nativity scene was devised by Saint Francis of Assisi with live figures and animals in a cave in the town of Greccio (Italy) on Christmas Eve 1223, and consequently he is seen as the patron Saint of Nativity Scene makers. The oldest known nativity scene created with figures is in the German monastery in Fussen (Bavaria) and dates back to 1252. The first crib in Spain was created around 1300 in the Barcelona cathedral and assembling nativity scenes in homes became common practice at the beginning of the 19th Century.
The tradition in Alicante of making the nativity scene has been impressively represented since 1959 by the Alicante Association of Nativity Scene Makers and was the first of its kind to be declared a Public Interest Entity by the Ministry of Interior in 1997.
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This museum is well worth a visit when you are in Alicante.