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Celso Battistini C. Rosa
A master of the 3-dimensional nativity diorama

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Brazil's Celso Battistini C. Rosa holds a prized Kubasta pop-up; in the background, a vintage German Nativity from his fold-out crèche collection. (Celso Rosa Collection and photos.)

“A crèche,” says Celso, “doesn’t just continue an old venerable tradition—it reveals the true meaning of Christmas. Because it reminds us that the Babe was born for us all; because it allows us to recognize that God invited everyone —rich and poor, Magi and shepherds—to the manger.

Celso Rosa with Fernanda and Felipe at his Monastery exhibition. (Photo courtesy Celso Rosa.)
"Here is a little bit about myself: I’m 43 years old, married, and have two beautiful children, Fernanda and Felipe, 8 and 3 years old. We live in a city called Piracicaba that has approximately 400 thousand inhabitants. Piracicaba is located 2 hours driving distance from São Paulo, the major city of Brazil.

"The seasons in Brazil are the opposite from North America and Europe due our location below the Ecuator. So when it is winter in USA and Europe we are in the beach down here. There is no snow in our Brazilian winter, only a few flurries in the extreme south of the country. Our Christmas is hot and Santa Claus usually comes wearing a red T-shirt and Bermudas. (Just kidding).

"I love to talk about Christmas, especially about crèches. I don’t know why, but people usually say that I am a crazy crèche maniac. Maybe it is because I think on crèches every day of the year.

"I am going to talk, then, a bit about the crèches (Presépios in Portuguese) in my life. Unlike most of the persons on this community, the crèche of my childhood was not a paper nativity, but one with 3-D figures from plaster of Paris.

"The paper crèches are relatively new to me. I bought my first paper crèche about 9 years ago in a very old shop in my hometown. When I saw them, I became bewitched by their beauty and bought all the ones available.

"Some years later I had the happiness to find It was when really discovered the enchantment of paper crèches.

"Collecting paper crèches is a big challenge to me since it was not a tradition in Brazil, and it is, therefore, almost impossibly to find them here.

At Celso's house, there's always a crèche under the Christmas tree: "I try to instill in my children not just an appreciation of nativities as art," he says, "but make them aware of their message…"(Photo by Celso Rosa.)
"My family was always very religious and the crèches were always present at our home. I remember my brother and I wanting to decorate our house for Christmas in the beginning of November, and my mother always saying that we should wait, that it was still early. We were anxious waiting for the day when she would decide that it was time for putting up the Christmas tree and the crèche. In time, the Christmas tasks were divided between my brother and myself, and I was always the one to put up the crèche (my choice).

"The Figures were always packed in a box, which was opened only when we started setting up the crèche. The Figures were all wrapped in old newspaper.

"My parents still have the same nativity set and they are still using it. Some years ago, I repaired the entire set and now the figures are perfect. We believe that this set is more than 45-years-old.

"It was not only at my home that we could see nativity displays: they were also displayed at my grandmother’s house, my aunt’s house and in churches. I remember well that some of them had running water, waterfalls and much more.

"I never thought that one day I would start collecting crèches. It started when I got married and my wife gave me a new nativity set as a birthday present.

"When I moved to the United States in 1998 for a six-year assignment, I was able to increase my collection substantially. I discovered all the facility of buying worldwide through the Internet. Lucky me! Or lucky sellers?

Celso created the balsa wood manger for this painted clay Mother and Child by Spanish artist Jose Luiz Mayo Lebrija. (Celso Rosa Collection and photo.)
"My paper crèches collection I usually buy through the Internet. My 3-D nativity collection are mostly figures, not nativity sets. Nowadays, I’m directing my collection on figures from a Spanish artist named Jose Luiz Mayo Lebrija. His figures are made of clay and are hand painted. I consider his work state of the art!

"Unfortunately, I can tell you that, in Brazil, the tradition of setting up “presépios” is almost dying. This was one of the reasons I decided to create a “virtual” group,Clubo Amigos du Presepiowhich, like, is a site where crèche eenthusiasts in Brazil can exchange ideas and experiences.

"Today, our group has hundreds of members and is spread worldwide: in Portugal, Spain, Italy, Australia, Venezuela, Guyana and United States. I’m very happy with my group and I can see that each year more and more people join us.

"This year, for the first time ever, I was invited to put up my nativity display in a Monastery. It was a pleasurarble experience. I worked more than four months making the buildings and accessories, and spent two days set it up. It was really a great experience for me.

"I’m now planning a paper crèche exhibition for the next year, and I’m already very excited with the idea. I don’t have many of them but the few I have, I am sure that will delight the audience.

"It’s a lovely but simple nativity, but so much more as well: It does’t just continue an old venerable tradition, it reveals the true meaning of Christmas—because it reminds us that the Babe was born for us all; because it allows us to recognize that God invited everyone—rich and poor, Magi and shepherds—to the manger.’’

—Celso Battistini C. Rosa

This detail reveals the beauty of a Jose Luiz Mayo Lebrija figure and Celso Rosa's superb craftsmanship in creating fine nativities. (Photo by Celso Rosa.)
We’re delighted to welcome good friend Celso Battistini C. Rosa, founder of Clube Amigos do Presépio, and the first to contribute a nativity to our free Downloads, the Arches Crèche. Celso has been a wonderful source of support and encouragement forCrè

Not only does Celso, I do believe, love paper nativities even more than I do, he's a superb artist, creating marvelous 3-D backgrounds that showcase the clay nativity figures he loves. Just look at the panorama that is one of his crèches (on a later page). The man is a genius.

I have been wanting to bring Celso's pages to you for sometime, and I was hoping that I would be the one doing the writing, thinking that, during one of my trips south of the border I would make it to Sao Paolo.

In fact, when I was in Peru, just a few weeks ago, little did he know how close I came to knocking on his door! I even checked out flights from Lima, but before I could buy a ticket I was informed that my photo-shoot schedule had been moved up and I needed to come home.

So, until I get a chance to see Celso and his collection first-hand, here's his profile, written by himself, hesitant as he was to do so. Who would know that he's not a native-English speaker? I hope Celso shares more of his paper crèche and 3-dimensional collection with us and I thank him for his friendship over the years. It's been great fun discovering nativities together—long-distance, through the Internet.


Enjoy some of Celso's paper nativity collection andthree-dimensional dioramasbelow and on the following pages.

The Nativity unfolds in this beautiful panorama by Celso Rosa. (Celso Rosa Collection and photo.)

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