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Valga Nativity Scene: tradition and creativity in motion

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The local residents work for three months to prepare the handcrafted nativity scene, the largest of its kind in Galicia with 4,000 hand-carved figurines. The unique composition combines Christmas scenes with notorious people and current affairs

The Three Wise Men share the nativity scene in Valga with the new United States
president-elect, the Republican Donald Trump, and with his political rival, the Democrat Hillary Clinton. The town on the shores of the Ulla River boasts the largest handcrafted nativity scene in Galicia with figurines in motion.

Local residents work hard for several months in order to have everything ready at the beginning of December for the opening to the public of this spectacular, unique and creative Christmas composition. The Xunta de Galicia (the autonomous government of Galicia) declared it an attraction of tourist interest and it is visited by thousands of people every year.

The nativity scene, displayed in the ward of Campaña and with 21 years of history behind it, is made up of nearly 4,000 figurines; all of them are handmade, and about five hundred are in constant motion. The cultural association Amigos do Belén de Valga (Friends of the Valga Nativity Scene) is in charge of the preparation and the set up together with the Town Council of Valga. The nativity scene grows every year by combining classic biblical elements with references to current affairs of local, national or international interest.

Traditional scenes such as the pig slaughter or the grape harvest share the same space with relevant Galician figures such as the writers Rosalía de Castro, Castelao or Camilo José Cela. Naturally, the historic figures from Valga are also portrayed, including Carolina "La Belle" Otero or Jesús Ferro Couselo. Always up-to-date with current issues, the local residents have increasingly added players on the Spanish national football team, political authorities or cyclists doing La Vuelta a España (Tour of Spain), which passed through the municipality at some point.

The creators of the Christmas display use various materials in order to craft the figurines and the sceneries. The materials range from polymer clay and plaster to wire, wood and stone. Furthermore, they use second-hand engines from items such as windscreen wipers or electric toothbrushes in order to set the figurines in motion.

Light and weather effects

Even though the nativity scene is one hundred percent handmade, there is plenty of technology in it. The most rudimentary technology is used to set the figurines in motion and another one, more advanced, is used for light and sound effects. The different phases of the day and the weather effects, such as snowfalls and storms, are simulated by computers and following a meticulous schedule. The characters are in constant movement and the days go by from dawn until dusk.

The Valga Nativity Scene Facebook page shows admiration for its nativity scene. Their followers highlights its spectacular nature and its uniqueness, and they encourage the local residents to expand it every year. Its size is astonishing and everything keeps growing. The Valga Nativity Scene is a must-visit tourist attraction during the Christmas holidays.

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