Betlem – Christmas Tradition in Prague

“Human size” nativity scene at Prague Castle bellow the Tower of St. Vitus Cathedral (entrance to the tower at the background)

As Christmas are getting closer, I want to write about one  beautiful tradition in Bohemia, connected to them. It’s called Creches or Betlehem or Crib, in Czech it is Betlem. During Advent time we display nativity scenes in our homes, shops, but also on the streets. They can be made from any possible material and most of them are really beautiful. At some places you can also find living nativity scene with real people and real animals.

Corn leave Creche

Extended corn scene

Standard composition of Creches consists of: new born baby Jesus at the creche with cow and donkey, Joseph and Mary standing by, Angel above with the sign: Gloria in excelsis Deo.

Exhibition in the crypt

Origami on patchwork

We can’t forget about shepherds and sheeps welcoming our Saviour and as the Christmas are getting closer and the holiday of Three Kings is behind the door, three kings are put closer and closer to the creche. During the time we add more and more figures with gifts, children playing in the snow, small animals around.

Poppy heads and lace

In the crypt of Betlehem chappel in Prague there is always an exhibition of creches during Advent time, which worth visiting. For us it is already a part of our family tradition, to visit exhibition, take a short walk through the Old Town and then stop by for drink at Choco Cafe or Tearoom by the Golden Cock.

Scenes from creches exhibition

Pottery version

The tradition of Betlem displaying was founded in 1223 at the court of Italian noble Giovanni di Velita, when he invited Francisco of Assisi to spend Christmas with his family. Francisco wanted to visualise new born baby Jesus in his creches and therefore he prepared the installation for others.

Betlehem Clocks

He changed the cave on the rocky hill to small chappel with nativity scene and invited people from neigborhoud villages for visit it at Christmas Eve. At the midnight the bells rang and the hill glittered with lights how coming people brought their torches for the Christmas Mass.

Wooden Holy family

At the end of the 18th century during the rule of Joseph II a lot of monasteries and churches were closed. Therefore,  craftsmen as painters, woodcarvers snd goldplaters lost their work connected with church decoration.

Wire Betlehem

On the other hand, the nativity scenes displayed in the churches had to go out.
Craftsmen started to make family creches for people and that´s how the creches spread around. Don’t you have one Betlem at home yet? Come to Prague and choose one, you can get one or get the inspiration for a home made one.


String can be also used

Glass nativity scene

Crochetted one

Glass beads

Colored stone or stove lenghts

Wooden carved case for sale at Christmas Market in Prague

Blueprint, another Czech tradition of fabric coloring

Gingerbread Scene

We have this one at home, I cut it from the paper and then arranged the scene bellow our TV

My Post about Christmas:

Betlémy – nativity scenes
Christmas Market in Prague Old Town
Christmas Crafts Markets in Prague
Czech Christmas Ornaments (Rautis)
Traditional Gingerbreads
Christmas Wish 2012
Family Tradition – Fire-crackers

53 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. noblenvn
    Nov 26, 2012 @ 11:26:16

    Nice………..”GOD BLESS YOU”


  2. bubblytee
    Nov 26, 2012 @ 16:46:54

    WOW and BEAUTIFUL craftsmanship from your country. Love them all…it is hard to select a favorite.

    Yes, I have a nativity scene in my home. It was purchased almost 30 years ago in Japan. I love your idea of posting nativity scenes; maybe i will do the same sometime in December.

    Thank you for sharing your blog. I will come back soon and browse….



  3. smilewanderer
    Nov 27, 2012 @ 09:04:19

    It’s very interesting about the “Betlem” info you share.
    And the photos looks really cute ~!~


  4. Lynne Ayers
    Nov 27, 2012 @ 17:06:34

    All so beautifully unique Katy. I particularly liked the pottery version and the clock, the one in the stove and the wire one. Prague has been on my travel list for a long time – now when I get there I’ll know to look for a nativity scene as a remembrance of the visit.


    • PragueByKaty
      Nov 27, 2012 @ 18:16:27

      For Betlems you should come in December, where the exhibitions are on, but we have also some of the most famouse Betlems during the whole year. So let me know when you are coming and I will give you some hints where to go or what to see.


  5. Tommy The Temp
    Nov 28, 2012 @ 14:03:22

    Greetings! This is my first comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and say I genuinely enjoy reading through your blog posts. Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums that go over the same topics? Thank you so much!


    • PragueByKaty
      Dec 04, 2012 @ 23:36:26

      Look for the “travel” tag or browse through “freshly pressed”, I am sure you will find something interesting. And as I am quite new in this all communication as well, better ask somebody more experienced :-).


  6. 1 Day David
    Nov 29, 2012 @ 17:04:46

    I’m extremely impressed with your writing skills as well as with the layout on your blog. Is this a paid theme or did you customize it yourself? Anyway keep up the nice quality writing, it is rare to see a nice blog like this one nowadays..


  7. Our Adventure in Croatia
    Nov 29, 2012 @ 19:48:49

    what a collection of photos from different Betlems! all very beautiful


  8. Amy
    Nov 29, 2012 @ 20:21:24

    How beautiful! I love handcrafts, bought some straw figures (your phone #2) in Prague this summer. 🙂


  9. Photography Journal Blog
    Nov 30, 2012 @ 14:30:11

    What a lovely post, thanks for sharing! I will be putting ours up this weekend.


  10. Liana
    Dec 02, 2012 @ 14:09:37

    I LOVE unique, original creches…LOVE this blogpost!


  11. thom bradley
    Dec 03, 2012 @ 21:56:22

    I enjoyed your pictures. What craftsmanship..thanks for sharing


  12. Tina Schell
    Dec 10, 2012 @ 03:28:20

    Fun post-amazing variety! And YOU, what a great job on the paper scene!


  13. Christmas Camera Deals
    Dec 10, 2012 @ 19:18:50

    Judging by the way you write, you seem like a professional writer.,


  14. fgassette
    Dec 10, 2012 @ 20:55:23

    Very informative and beautifully photographed post. Thanks for sharing.



  15. rem_la
    Dec 10, 2012 @ 20:57:39

    toute la magie de noel ………………………….


  16. poppytump
    Dec 11, 2012 @ 15:46:55

    SO many ways of portraying The Nativity ! Wonderful.
    Love your own cut out scene … looks like a fairytale 🙂


  17. sued51
    Dec 11, 2012 @ 17:13:31

    These are beautiful! I really liked this post!


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  19. strawberryquicksand
    Dec 22, 2012 @ 22:11:33

    By the time I had finished scrolling to the bottom my mouth was hanging open in amazement at the wonderous creations! I mean… a GINGERBREAD one and a CROCHETED one? Both so intricate and amazing! Not to mention all the rest of them! I believe that if one is celebrating Christmas, one ought have a nativity scene whether one is religious or not (myself – not religious but I do display a nativity scene since I am partaking in Christmas). Thank you for sharing those wonderful photos. xo


    • PragueByKaty
      Dec 22, 2012 @ 23:22:36

      In fact the shots in my post are from the last years exhibition. I visited current one after publishing the post, and I was overwhelmed by the new scenes, they looked to me even much better then last year’s ones …


  20. samatwitch
    Dec 23, 2012 @ 08:13:38

    Lovely pictures. I really like the one in the clock.

    I have three creches or nativity scenes in my house at Christmas. One is very tiny – Mary, Joseph & the baby carved inside a piece of polished stone about an inch high that came from Peru, one is wooden and the other is pottery. The latter also has two shepherds, three wise men on camels and a donkey, cow and two sheep.

    Thank you for checking out my blog.


  21. Kristina Sjögren
    Dec 25, 2012 @ 22:43:08

    Thanks for dropping by, Katy, I find your piece about the cribs fascinating!


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  24. sherristone413
    Dec 31, 2012 @ 13:51:35

    There are so many unique nativity scenes pictured here! I love the straw figures and had to click on the photo to admire the details. I’m also going to share your post with my mother-in-law who loves these also.


  25. nightlake
    Jan 02, 2013 @ 03:13:17

    lovely collection..liked the pottery version a lot


  26. fgassette
    Jan 11, 2013 @ 14:14:52

    Welcome! Thank you for subscribing to follow my blog. I hope you are encouraged, inspired and enjoy the photos I take of life’s events as seen through the lens of my camera.


  27. Jude
    Jan 21, 2013 @ 23:41:31

    Thank you for visiting my blog. I love your spider-web pictures – but couldn’t see a place to leave a comment or a ‘Like’! 🙂


  28. fayreelayne
    Jan 22, 2013 @ 07:19:18

    Very beautiful!


  29. LubbyGirl
    Jan 30, 2013 @ 16:08:38

    Thoroughly enjoyed looking at all these beautiful photos of the Nativity. My son and I made one when he was small (he’s 32 now!) that I still put out on the table at Christmas. We used wooden clothespins, cotton balls, and scraps of fabric.


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  35. Inside the Mind of Isadora
    Mar 03, 2013 @ 14:11:04

    I want to travel with you. These are outstanding pix’s of a place I would love. The variety of nativity statues is fabulous. I love the pix with the Wooden Holy Family. The carving is great. Super post …!!!!


  36. Naomi Baltuck
    Apr 28, 2013 @ 17:11:03

    I really enjoyed this post, Katy. My mother-in-law collects creches, and so we bring them back for her wherever we travel. I loved the variety that you featured in this post.


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