Tiny Hungarian village creates one of Europe's largest nativity scenes

One of Europe's largest indoor nativity scenes, at the St Martin Church in Vors, Hungary, on Nov 25. (Photo: Reuters)

VORS, Hungary: The tiny Hungarian village of Vors has a long tradition that survived even communist rule: every year its residents build the country's largest Christmas nativity scene in their ornate baroque church.

"It is a wonderful tradition, locals build it, all of them, as volunteers," village mayor Tamas Deak said. "It is real community effort and everyone does it happily and with love," he added, cutting conifer sprigs for decoration.

Due to the pandemic last year no visitors were allowed apart from those taking part in the mass, but this year the village near Lake Balaton -- population about 500 -- expects thousands to come, despite a surge in Covid-19 infections. There are currently no lockdown measures in Hungary.

The first nativity scene was created in 1948 in the church that dates from 1720. It grew every year until it reached its current size about 20 years ago, covering 60m². This makes it one of Europe's largest indoor nativity scenes.

Locals first assemble a large wooden structure as the foundation for rolling hills and valleys leading to the cave of the nativity. Then they add miniature figures, sheep, and even a tiny bonfire.

The display differs slightly each year. But one thing is constant: it has to be ready for the first Sunday mass of the Advent period, which this year is this weekend.

For Rita Miklosics, it has a special significance as her father built the first nativity scene.

"We used to spend our time here before the holidays," she said. "We could hardly wait."

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