This is a short excerpt from a longer essay (Social and religious life in the Parana) which describes some of the customs and traditions of peoples living along the Parana River. You’ll notice that it’s rather derogatory, and this is because the authors were openly anti-Catholic, anti-Napoleonic and racist towards the Creole inhabitants of the Parana River. Nevertheless, I’m sharing it with you because it provides a good description of a Spanish/Catholic inspired nativity scene of the 1860s. Note: The Parana river runs through what are – today – three South American countries: Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina.
In every reception-room (aposento) there is a glass cage with a Virgin Mary and Child, in painted wood or wax, surrounded with flowers, tinsel, and shells of pearly lustre.
This is called the creche, or pessebre. At Christmas-time, vases, bottles, china, statuettes, no matter if of Napoleon — the decimator of mankind — are heaped up around the Christian penates.
The kings, the magi, the animals of the ark, are also sometimes represented after the most grotesque fashion. On that day people visit one another to admire or envy their neighbours’ display.