Customs

The Birth of the Manuelito Children in Cuzco

El Niño Manuelito(Photo: Walter Coraza Morveli)

Everything begins with a question, where will you put up your manger scene this year.  Like every other year, in Cusco people put together crèche scenes, called nacimientos, in their homes.  They do so with lots of creativity.  Each family does the best job they can.

For us there must always be some things for the nacimientos.  You need plants, like moss and such, as well as painted paper to make hills and mountains, colored sawdust in order to form roads and paths as well as deserts, fields, and more.

Greenery for Sale at Santurantikuy Today (Photo: David Knowlton)
Greenery for Sale at Santurantikuy Today (Photo: David Knowlton)

The greenery is very important, since with it the nacimientos have more realism. You can get it in the forests, hill, or wherever there is vegetation.  Of course many people prefer to buy it in the Christmas markets of Cuzco.

People who go out to gather plants and herbs walk in fresh air looking at all around.  They think about how every small plant, branch, or leaf would look in their manger scenes.

One of the most important fairs in Cusco is the “Santurantikuy”. This name comes from the Quechua language and it means “sale of saints”.  It takes place in Cuzco’s main square, the Haucaypata, every 24th of December, including today.

Vendors bring images of saints to sell as well as other handicrafts of clay, as well as clothing for them.  They also bring animals, wise men, and everything else necessary for your crèche.  They also offer greenery, colored paper, lights, and many more handicrafts in case you need a last minute gift.

Niños Manueltios in their Thrones (Photo: David Knowlton)
Niños Manueltios in their Thrones (Photo: David Knowlton)

Many people do not go to buy anything.  They simply go to enjoy everything there in this fair.  They look at every detail of the things brought this year.  Many will return to their homes, however, with new things to put in their manger scene.

Another place where they sell greenery, saints and other objects on the same day is a similar fair in the Plaza of Santiago, or the Hatun Rantikuy in the Plaza of San Sebastian.

You can also find in these fairs people who restore images of the Christ Child, the Niño Manuelito.

Looking to Buy a Christ Child (Photo: David Knowlton)
Looking to Buy a Christ Child (Photo: David Knowlton)

Every year people put up their manger scenes for the Holy Night and then on the Bajada de Reyes, January 6th, they take them down and keep them safe for another year.  In many cases their Christ Child has been damaged and needs restoring.

Many of the restorers belong to the School of Fine Arts.  The art also passes from father to son over the generations.  Those who perform this art have a lot of work.  They restore Manuelitos from small to large. They also work with different materials, from porcelain to clay.

Once you have all that you need, you put up your manger scene.  You first put up a hill or mountain and near the top of it is where the manger goes with the Christ Child will be born.

Santuranitkuy Today in Cusco (Photo: David Knowlton)
Santuranitkuy Today in Cusco (Photo: David Knowlton)

Besides all the animals, wise men, and so on, people always look to find a good location for the stable.  In my family, we put up out nacimiento and each year it is larger.  It grows along with us.

My father is very funny.  Since we have four wise men, none of them can be missing.  We place them in order and my father says there are still others who have not yet arrived because the slept in and missed the birth of Jesus.

In the churches they also put up every year a manger scene.  Youths and adults help to put them together so that every one who goes to mass can see them and enjoy them.

Cuzco’s municipality also puts up a large manger scene in the Qoricancha and in the main square.  In this way the people who take photos and walk around with their family can see the whole feast.

Something that we can never forget is the incense and the palo santo, a scented wood, so that our homes will be blessed with prosperity and good luck throughout the year.

 

 

 

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