The popularity of the Nativity scene, one of the most beloved and enduring symbols of the holiday season, originated in Italy. In 1223, St. Francis of Assisi asked a man named Giovanni Vellita of the village of Greccio to create a manger scene. Francis called it a “crèche,” the French word for cradle. This first crèche used real people, a real manger, a real ox and ass, and real shepherds. Francis performed Mass in front of this early Nativity scene, which inspired awe and devotion in all who saw it. The creation of the figures or pastori became an entire genre of folk art.