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Last year's 2014 Christmas market in Greccio was very pretty, with new wooden cabins, Christmas lights, fake snow and a delightful atmosphere. There are two ways up to the village by car. A short walk outside the village is a free exhibition of Nativity scenes (Presepe) and with a short drive (or a long walk) you can reach the Sanctuary of Greccio, which is well worth visiting. Many people attend mass at the church located next to the sanctuary. There is also a bar next to the car park, which serves drinks and light snacks. In Greccio itself there are a couple of restaurants and a hotel on the main square.
The Christmas market & Living Nativity from 5 December 2015 until 6 January 2016.
Dates below, with precise opening hours to be added as soon as they are published.
Greccio has been twinned with the town of Bethlehem since 1992 and was the location of the first ever living Nativity.
St. Francis of Assisi had a profound love of the Reatine valley (having personally visited this area several times we can fully understand why), and he found refuge here from the vanities and greed of the life he left behind in Assisi. He also appreciated the simplicity of the people in these parts.
The first time St. Francis was in Greccio was around 1209. At that time the population of Greccio was concerned by the presence of wolves and the hostile climate that annually destroyed fields of crops and vineyards with hail and snow storms. It is told that St. Francis - who was living in a hut on Mount Lacerone (1204mt 5.7 km from Greccio) - would pray for the townsfolk, and that his intercession ceased all calamities. St. Francis had also spent time living as a hermit near Fonte Colombo - a short distance from Greccio - but had developed a special fondness for Greccio and its townsfolk.
In August 1219, St. Francis set out, for the third time, on a journey to the Holy Land - a place he had been longing to visit. There had already been two prior failed attempts. The first time he embarked in Ancona for Palestine but a storm forced the ship to turn back. The following year (1214-1215) had tried to get to Morocco but a serious illness forced him to abandon his desired mission to the Holy Land once again. After his successful trip to Palestine 4 years later, St. Francis returned with a special fondness for Christmas and for Bethlehem, which left its emotional mark upon him.
In November of the year 1223, St. Francis - now back in Fonte Colombo - obtained approval of the Rules* by Pope Honorius III, and was also granted permission to represent the first nativity. Together with his friend Giovanni Velita, Lord of Greccio, that is exactly what they did. St. Francis found a cave as similar as possible to the one in Bethlehem and went about gathering a donkey, an ox, some of the townsfolk dressed in traditional garments to act the various parts, and made the scene as though it were indeed Bethlehem.
So, Greccio became a new Bethlehem! And the tradition of the Nativity would spread through homes and churches throughout the Christian world.
*the Rules were given to St. Francis, by God, at Fonte Colombo. God appeared to St. Francis - if you visit Fonte Colombo you can see the exact spot - and gave him these rules, which would become the foundations of the Franciscan Order.
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