The Holy Family
The characters of the Holy Family are the key element of the crib. The three protagonists are placed in a cave or hut or a ruin of a temple destroyed symbolizing the end of paganism and the advent of Christianity. Baby Jesus is placed in the center of the grotto in the manger and is the hub of all the cribs. Beside him we find the Madonna in adoring position usually dressed in blue or light blue clothes, and St. Joseph, similar in clothing and appearance to the shepherds, whose clothes are yellow and purple, and holding in his hands a stick whose handle is curved.
Benin is the shepherd that is usually placed on the highest hill of the nativity scene. It is depicted with his head resting on a stone and nearby it is placed a tree whose foliage gives him shade over his head; around him there are some white sheeps. According to popular tradition Benin sleeps and dreams the crib, "Woe betide you if you wake him! Suddenly the Nativity would disappear."
The pastors are a diverse group and are portrayed in various attitudes and there is no limit to their number. They are placed near the hut, bringing gifts to the baby Jesus, walking the paths of the scene, leading the sheep to pasture, etc.
Woman and Child
The woman with the baby on the crib is widespread and is placed near the cave. Popular tradition tells that a young virgin named Stephanie, learned of the birth of the Redeemer, walked toward the cave to worship him but the angels stopped her as unmarried women were not allowed to visit the Madonna. The next day Stephanie took a stone wrapped in swaddling clothes as if it was a child and, deceiving the angels, she managed to reach the cave. In the presence of the Madonna, miraculously, the stone sneezed and turned into a child whose name was Stephen, and so, since then, on 26 December, we celebrate the feast of St. Stephen.
Artisans represent all professions. The most classic are the blacksmith, the carpenter, the washerwoman, the cowherd, the grinder, the baker, the butcher, the fisherman etc. Like the shepherds there is no limit to their number and they are represented while running their business.
The blacksmith is usually placed in a small workshop equipped with a forge to heat the iron, the bellows to poke up the fire in the forge, an anvil made of hardened steel, a complete set of tools hammers, pliers, chisels.
The carpenter is one of the craftsmen who can not miss in the classic Neapolitan crib because it recalls the craft of Saint Joseph. It is placed in a room equipped with the typical bench supplied with all the tools of the trade.
We usually find the shoemaker in his shop, with his typical bench full of all the material for his work, intent on fixing a broken shoe.
The cattleman is placed on the rock of the crib area and is represented in the act of conducting his grazing cows.
The knife grinder
The knife sharpener with its typical wagon can almost always be placed near the tavern intent on grinding a knife.
The baker is placed in a shop full of sacks of flour and is represented in the act of baking the bread.
The sellers, according to the crib tradition, personify the various months of the year in relation to their work in the following way: January: butcher and grocer; February: seller of cheeses; March: poulterer; April: eggs seller; May: Seller of cherries; June: Baker; July: tomato seller; August: cucumbers seller; September: the seller of figs; October: vintner; November: chestnut seller; December: fishmonger.
The greengrocer in his stall full of diverse products has the auspicious meaning of wealth and abundance.
The butcher placed in his shop filled with various kinds of meat and game of every type is represented in most cases intent on slicing meat with a steak knife.
The cheese seller
The cheese seller's placed in a central position with his stall filled with different types of cheeses and cold cuts almost always talking to a buyer.
The seller of chickens
The seller of chickens is placed in a street corner with his cages filled of poultry and baskets of eggs.
The presence of the gypsy symbolizes the character able to predict the future. In crib it is represented with a basket of iron tools, metal used to forge the nails of Jesus' crucifixion and then going to prophesy the future that awaits the Christ. It is placed near the tavern or in a place far from the hut.
The Card Players
There are usually two card players and they symbolize '' e duie cumpare zi 'Vicienzo and zi' Pascale. "(the two mates, Uncle Vincent and Uncle Paschal). They are also called the "San Giovanni"(saint John) in reference to the two solstices: 24 December and 24 June.
The pastor of the wonder
The wonder of the shepherd is portrayed in an amazing position as enchanted by the lights and the songs of announcers angels and symbolizes Christ's revelation to humanity.
The scene of the Tarantella (a traditional Neapolitan folk dance) is normally placed near the tavern. The shepherds are represented in typical clothes in act of dancing and they are accompanied by musicians.
The laundress is a symbolic popular character. On the one hand she is a witness, as a midwife, of the virginal birth of Our Lady, as attested by the apocryphal gospels; on the other hand, she is a purifying figure, sometimes associated to the Virgin, free from original sin, and sometimes to the idea of death, understood as a regenerating mother who purifies us to let us rise again in a new life.
Commoners to the balcony
The commoners overlooking the balcony turn their curious glance at the world below thatis in turmoil for the birth of the Redeemer.
The entourage of the Magi
The entourage of the Magi is composed of servants, women, grooms, horses, camels and elephants, in which echoes the memory of the epic tour of Tunisian ambassadors in Naples at the beginning of the seventeenth century. The statuettes of the Orientals are always dressed in fine clothes, jewels and precious ornaments, and configure them in opposition to the people of Naples, consisting of beggars and picturesque human types who populated the city. The scene is full of Oriental items; small funerary objects, often in precious metals, in addition to playing chests, vases. Below we will see some characters in detail.
From Georgia, of white complexion, representing the aristocracy coming from far away.
Character named after the region of Judea and Galilee.
Character from the Palestinian region of Galilee and Judea. She wears a long dress with silk mantle embroidered in gold and to embellish his figure it is included a necklace and earrings.
They precede the Georgians in the entourage of the Three Kings. They are servants of noble birth who guard chests filled with gold, silver, precious stones. Together with them we find valets and servants that hold the leash of elegant greyhounds, exotic small animals such as parrots and monkeys.
The gang of musicians
Closing the parade we find the band of musicians offering a varied collection of wind and percussion instruments. The band members are generally depicted of Turkish-Anatolian race and black people coming from the Ottoman Empire.
The innkeeper in the popular tradition represents the one who rejected Mary and Joseph from his inn, but in the crib he is one of the many popular figures.
The “ciccibacco” is a tall, eccentric character usually represented driving a cart pulled by an ox, carrying barrels of wine; he is sometimes placed sitting on a barrel with a flask of wine.
The deformity in the crib takes a character of curiosity that, as in the '700, gladdens cynically and is the fun of the beholders. The crooked people are divided in the following five subjects.
The "scartellatiello" (hunchback), is 'a subject typically linked to superstition. Its hump, its good luck amulets and horseshoes spread luck and chase away the evil omen.
As far as the imagination will delight in creating these characters, it must be said that the lame people were frequent in the past. They were seen as errors of nature and considered "marked by God" for their supposed evil.
Included among the grotesque, the dwarf is a character arousing attention and curiosity in the scene. It is also seen as Gnome, with reference to the popular sagas which want it impenetrable, stubborn and suspicious, occasionally kind and generous. In Naples it is considered equal to the famous lucky "scartellatiello" (hunchback).
Eye diseases were often fought with religious practices (blessing of the eyes, the votive eyes offerings) or by the sprinkling of the eyes in spa sources or sacred springs. The one-eyed man who shows his crippling is among the most popular grotesque characters.
A witness to the frequent plagues of antiquity, the leper is a symbol of the man suffering poverty and disease on earth, but, recalling the figure of Lazarus, he will then be compensated in the Hereafter.
In all the cribs cannot be lacking the pictures of the peddlers with the most varied goods. Below we will see some characters in detail.
The fish seller
The fishmonger in the crib has an allegorical meaning, in fact, since the time of the early Christians, the fish in the catacomb paintings was the symbol of Christ.
The maccheronaro (macaroni seller) exhibits enormous boilers filled with macaroni which, traditionally, is the favorite food for Neapolitans.
The seller of bottles (bottigliaro) is one of those jobs disappeared for years and revived thanks to the crib.
Particularly high figure of the crib is the acquaiuolo or acquafrescaio (water vendor) with its characteristic ornate marble counter with lemons and oranges ready to be squeezed.
The saponaro passed from house to house collecting old objects that people wanted to get rid of.
The castagnara (chestnut seller) with its large stove and a perforated pan sells roasted chestnuts in its typical cones.
An ancient itinerant craft, the maccaturara is the seller of handkerchiefs. It takes its name from the Neapolitan dialect "maccaturo" indicating the handkerchief.
The sbregliaiuolo is the roving salesman of hay and bundles that were used to reinforce the mattresses in ancient times.