Christmas Barcelona Pessebre de Nadal - nativity scene


Pessebre de Nadal. Christmas nativity scene

The pessebre is the Catalan name for the Christmas nativity scene. A Spanish and Catalan Christmas would not be complete without a nativity scene with palm trees, shepherds, three kings, Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus. And of course the cheeky 'pooing' Caganer figure. A nativity scene in Catalonia is called 'El Pessebre de Nadal.'


The word Pessebre means 'stable' and El Pessebre de Nadal refers to the manger, or the crib, where Christ was born. It is called 'El Belén de Navidad' in Spanish or 'Belén de Judá.' "Belén de Judá" is the Spanish name for Bethlehem, which is a city located in the West Bank, Palestine, located about 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) south of Jerusalem. In English, "Belén de Judá" translates to "Bethlehem of Judea."

The three most typical pessebre scenes are the birth of Christ in a manger, the Archangel Gabriel appearing to the shepherds, or the star guiding the Three Kings to Bethlehem.

Traditionally the pessebre is assembled on St Catherine's Day on 25th November. St. Catherine, also known as Catherine of Alexandria, was an early Christian martyr, and her feast day is observed in various Christian traditions. 

The pessebre is taken down on 2nd February which is the feast of Candlemas. Candlemas, also known as the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus Christ, is a Christian holiday that commemorates the presentation of Jesus at the Temple in Jerusalem and the purification of the Virgin Mary, 40 days after the birth of Jesus. Candlemas falls on February 2nd, which is 40 days after Christmas.

The name "Candlemas" comes from the practice of blessing and distributing candles on this day. In some Christian traditions, candles are lit during church services to symbolize Jesus as the "Light of the World." In addition to its Christian significance, Candlemas has ties to older pre-Christian celebrations. In some cultures, it marks the midpoint of winter, halfway between the shortest day and the spring equinox, and there are traditions related to weather prediction, such as the belief that if Candlemas Day is sunny, there will be six more weeks of winter. 



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Christmas crib scene displays can be found many places in Barcelona on plazas, in churches and in most Catalan homes, both in miniature form and also living nativity plays called 'pessebre vivents.'

The official Barcelona outdoor nativity scene pessebre is the 'Pessebre a la Plaça Sant Jaume' in the Gothic quarter of Barcelona.

It is open from end November to 6th January from 10:00 to 22:00 daily. The design changes every year.

Below: Christmas pessembre in 2023


Below: the nativity facade of Gaudi's famous Sagrada Familia church in Barcelona.

Sagrada Familia Nativity facade Barcelona

Where to see a Christmas pessebre in Barcelona?

Open-air pessebre in Plaça de Sant Jaume
Pessebre at Museo Frederic Marés - classic monumental nativity scene in the courtyard of the Museu Frederic Marès.
Cloister of Cathedral La Seu - entrance from Carrer del Bisbe
At Reial Cercle Artístic on Carrer Arcs 5
Mid-December to early January in Basílica Santa Maria del Mar
Mostra de Pessebres de la Parròquia de Betlem - Las Ramblas, 107
Sagrat Cor de Jesús in church on Tibidabo hill
Museu Monestir de Pedralbes Pedralbes Monastery 

More about pessebres

Barcelona Pessebristes
Association Pessebre Vivents

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Last Updated on Sunday, 17 December 2023 21:24