The story of the manger begins with the myth of the Nativity
From the Gospels that appear in the first Christian centuries, the Church chooses four which it declares canonical, inspired by the Holy Spirit, attributing them to apostles such as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and declares the others apocryphal. In greek apocryphal it means secret, but the Church makes it a synonym for false because it considers those other Gospels too fanciful and full of Gnostic or Manichean heresies. Of the four canonical Gospels, which fabricate the life of Jesus with false prophecies, only two, those attributed to Matthew and Luke, relate his birth. And although inspired by the Holy Spirit, they narrate it in different and even contradictory ways. And only one of them speaks of the manger, while the other ignores it.
In Matthew there is no annunciation of Mary. It is Joseph who in a dream finds out from an angel who does not identify himself, that Mary, his wife, whom he has not yet possessed, is already pregnant. But the angel calms him down by telling him that it is not from a man but from God himself and José swallows that without question. Jesus, the son who will give birth to Mary, and who will be born soon, will be the Messiah, for which he must be from the tribe of David and be born in Bethlehem, his city. The thing about Bethlehem is not a problem because they live in Bethlehem and José is also from that tribe. Only he is not the father of the child. But Matthew and the Holy Spirit skip that detail. And Mateo complicates what follows. It speaks of some magicians who come from the East looking for a child born in Bethlehem who is the future king of the Jews. That child is Jesus. And from that fable presented as history, the adoration of the magi, their gifts, the fury of Herod, the slaughter of the innocents, the flight of Joseph to Egypt with Mary and the child, the subsequent return of the three and their installation in northern Palestine, in Galilee, in Nazareth. But there is no manger, since Joseph, Mary and the child lived in Bethlehem, and of course, not in a manger but in a house.
And it is Luke, who makes another fanciful story of the birth of Jesus, the one that speaks of a manger. Gabriel, an angel, announces to Mary, a virgin, recently married to Joseph, of the tribe of David, but not yet possessed by her husband, that the spirit of God will possess her at a distance and that she will have a son from God who will be the Messiah. Here too poor Joseph accepts the pair of heavenly horns. But the child must be born in Bethlehem and he and Mary live in Nazareth, at the other end of Palestine. It is midwinter, the child is close to being born, and then Lucas invents a crazy census imposed by the Emperor Augustus that forces all the subjects of the Empire to register each in his city. Thus, Joseph immediately leaves, with Mary about to give birth, to cross Palestine to register in Bethlehem, which is his city. They arrive, but find no accommodation; and the delivery of Mary being urgent, they take refuge in a manger in which she gives birth to the child, wraps him in swaddling clothes and puts him to bed. In those outskirts of Bethlehem some shepherds take care of their flocks. An angel surrounds them, envelops them in his light, and announces that the Savior has been born, while music is heard from heaven and the shepherds come to the manger to venerate the child. This story, that of the manger, poetic and suggestive, without slaughter, later aided by apocryphal gospels that place the manger in a cave adding the mule and the ox, is imposed on that of Mateo. But, anyway, the poverty, invasions and crises of the high medieval centuries mean that the subject is hardly talked about and until it remains practically forgotten.
Saint Francis resurrects him and the manger spreads
It is Saint Francis of Assisi who resurrects the manger in 1223; and in the new Middle Ages of those centuries, the manger spreads and is enriched with new characters. I highlight two things. The manger spreads mainly through southern Europe: Italy, France, Spain and Portugal, which remains papist when in the sixteenth century Christianity was divided between Catholics and Protestants. The manger generates popular inventiveness and creative craftsmanship, as in Naples and Catalonia. And soon the Magi are added, who had nothing to do with him. And with them also the star of Bethlehem, another coleada. A beautiful example of this mixture is the fresco by Giotto, (1305, Padua, Scrovegni Chapel) in which the magi are seen in the hut of the newborn Jesus and on the hut the star of Bethlehem, which in this case is the comet then called Halley's.
That manger, symbol of the Nativity, arrives in our America with the colony. And after it it becomes an ingrained and popular Christian tradition. At Christmas in each house there was a handmade nativity scene, with the only difference that those of the rich had more expensive figures than those of the poor. So in the nineteenth century and much of the twentieth. But the United States (EU), which already dominated us, could not help but get involved to impose its cultural domination on our countries as well.
EU: Santa Claus, fake snow, pine and glass balls
The Germanic countries of northern Europe did not get the manger. Its climate is very cold, especially in December and January. In them the imposition of Christianity was slower. The cult of Yggdrasil, tree of life, Christianized, was maintained with the pine. The veneration of Saint Nicholas came to them and they soon deformed it; and in Germany, Holland, and Great Britain it was given various physical appearances and names. In this he was caricatured in the XNUMXth century as Father Christmas, Santa Claus. In other Nordic countries he was like a fat sailor. The sleigh, snow and reindeer also appear, and the children begin to hang stockings from the chimneys to wait at Christmas for the gifts that Santa Claus left them and that in the Catholic world the Three Kings brought them in January. The complete cartoon has been achieved in the United States since the XNUMXth century, and in the XNUMXth century Father Christmas becomes that fat Coca-Cola dress called Santa Claus.
In a matter of decades, since the end of the XNUMXth century, the United States, dominating Latin America, has led Latin American Catholics to discard the manger (which was saved for the following year after Christmas), replacing it with an expensive pine, imported from the United States. or Canada and that you have to change for another every year because it dries up; some colored balls also imported, which hang and break and you have to buy others; to buy fake fireplaces to hang the stockings; to fill the houses with a fake snow that is disposable cotton; and, as seen in the Southern Cone, whose December is not freezing winter but high summer, to disguise a poor man as Santa Claus and make him sweat while pretending to be chilled with cold. In short, another grotesque caricature imposed on us by Yankee colonial rule.
The mangers do not disappear. The rich and the middle class accept the pines, the balls and the fat cocacolero, and the traditional and the poor continue with their nativity scenes. Although several States in their public bodies combine both things. Because it wasn't class struggle, just a matter of taste. And, from what is seen, there seems to be an awakening of the mangers today. It has been happening with the Catholic Church. And the Vatican in recent years organizes great nativity contests at Christmas. I think they are pathetic. There are huge bridges and metal buildings, gigantic astronauts that look like invading Martians from the movies of the 50s, electric cars and monstrous figures. If the Church thus seeks to create a new face to support modernity and current technologies, it is wrong. The way is another. Stop being so reactionary and authoritarian, open up, abandon dogmas and impositions, listen to her faithful, who abandon her because she is indifferent to their problems and because of her support for money and priestly pedophilia. But that would be too much to ask.