How to Make a Belen: A Traditional Spanish Christmas Tradition

Christmas is a time of joy and celebration, and in Spain, one of the most beloved traditions is the creation of a “Belen.” A Belen, also known as a Nativity scene, is a representation of the birth of Jesus Christ. It is a beautiful and intricate display that captures the essence of the Christmas story. In this article, we will explore the history and significance of the Belen tradition, as well as provide a step-by-step guide on how to make your own Belen.

The History and Significance of the Belen Tradition

The tradition of creating a Belen dates back to the 13th century when Saint Francis of Assisi created the first Nativity scene in Italy. The idea quickly spread throughout Europe, and by the 16th century, it had become a popular tradition in Spain. Today, the Belen is an integral part of Spanish Christmas celebrations, with elaborate displays found in homes, churches, and public spaces.

The Belen serves as a visual representation of the birth of Jesus Christ and the events surrounding it. It typically includes figures of Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, the Three Wise Men, shepherds, angels, and various animals. The scene is often set in a stable or a Bethlehem landscape, complete with mountains, rivers, and houses.

The Belen tradition holds deep religious and cultural significance for the Spanish people. It serves as a reminder of the true meaning of Christmas and allows families to come together and reflect on the story of Jesus’ birth. It is also a way to showcase artistic talent and creativity, as many Belens are beautifully crafted and adorned with intricate details.

Step-by-Step Guide: How to Make a Belen

Creating a Belen is a labor of love that requires careful planning and attention to detail. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you make your own Belen:

1. Choose a Theme

Before you start creating your Belen, it is important to decide on a theme. You can choose to recreate a traditional Bethlehem scene or get creative and incorporate elements from your own culture or region. Some popular themes include a rustic countryside Belen, a modern cityscape Belen, or a beach-themed Belen.

2. Gather Materials

Once you have chosen a theme, gather the materials you will need to bring your Belen to life. This may include:

  • Wooden or cardboard base
  • Artificial grass or moss
  • Small figurines of Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, the Three Wise Men, shepherds, angels, and animals
  • Miniature houses, buildings, and props
  • Paints, brushes, and glue
  • Decorative elements such as rocks, pebbles, and twigs
  • LED lights or candles for ambiance

3. Set Up the Base

Start by setting up the base for your Belen. If using a wooden base, you can paint it or cover it with fabric to create a more realistic landscape. If using a cardboard base, you can cut and shape it to fit your desired scene. Once the base is ready, cover it with artificial grass or moss to create a natural-looking ground.

4. Arrange the Figurines

Next, arrange the figurines on the base. Start with Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus, placing them in the center of the scene. Then, position the Three Wise Men, shepherds, angels, and animals around them. Be mindful of the scale and proportion, ensuring that the figurines are appropriately sized for the scene.

5. Add Buildings and Props

Once the figurines are in place, add miniature houses, buildings, and props to complete the scene. You can create your own structures using cardboard or purchase pre-made ones from craft stores. Arrange them strategically to create depth and interest in your Belen.

6. Paint and Decorate

Now it’s time to add color and detail to your Belen. Use paints and brushes to bring life to the figurines, buildings, and props. You can also add decorative elements such as rocks, pebbles, and twigs to enhance the realism of the scene. Don’t forget to add LED lights or candles to create a warm and inviting ambiance.

7. Personalize Your Belen

Make your Belen unique by adding personal touches and elements that reflect your own style and culture. You can incorporate traditional ornaments, family heirlooms, or symbols that hold special meaning to you. This will make your Belen even more meaningful and cherished.

8. Display and Share

Once your Belen is complete, find a prominent place to display it in your home. Consider setting up a dedicated table or shelf to showcase your creation. Invite family and friends to admire your Belen and share in the joy of the Christmas season.


1. How long does it take to make a Belen?

The time it takes to make a Belen can vary depending on the complexity of the scene and the level of detail you want to achieve. It can take anywhere from a few hours to several days or even weeks to complete a Belen.

2. Can I buy a ready-made Belen?

Yes, you can purchase ready-made Belens from specialty stores or online. These Belens often come with pre-painted figurines and accessories, making it easier to set up. However, making your own Belen allows for more personalization and creativity.

3. Are there any competitions for Belen making?

Yes, there are several competitions held in Spain and other countries for Belen making. These competitions showcase the talent and creativity of participants and often attract a large audience. Participating in a Belen competition can be a great way to challenge yourself and gain recognition for your skills.

4. Can I make a Belen with children?

Absolutely! Making a Belen with children can be a fun and educational activity. It allows them to learn about the Christmas story and express their creativity. You can assign age-appropriate tasks to children, such as painting figurines or arranging props.

5. Can I make a Belen without figurines?

Yes, you can create a Belen without figurines by using other materials such as paper cutouts or clay. Get creative and experiment with different materials to bring your Belen to life. The important thing is to capture the essence of the Christmas

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