Origami Nativity Scene Instructions

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Christ's nativity is a common subject in visual art of every media.
Christ's nativity is a common subject in visual art of every media. (Image: Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

You can use origami to create shapes representing almost anything imaginable. By making models of Mary, the baby Jesus, sheep and other figures traditionally included in depictions of the nativity, you can make your own origami crèche, or nativity scene. Each model requires only a few simple folds, some with multiple pieces of paper that you must slide together to form a larger object.

The Virgin Mary

Rotate a square of origami paper, light side up, so one point is facing you. Valley-fold the bottom point to meet the top and mountain-fold both sides inward, so the diagonal edges meet in the middle of the opposite side. Valley-fold the bottom points and mountain-fold the entire sheet with a vertical crease along the middle to make Mary's body and feet.

Position another square of paper, one point toward you, colored side up. Valley-fold the top down to meet the bottom. Valley-fold the left and right corners diagonally to meet the bottom point. Fold the new left and right corners to meet in the middle, allowing the corners on the back to bend outward. Pull on these new corners to unfold the paper into an inverted triangle again. These creases will help you perform the final few folds.

Fold the tips of the left and right corners inward and then out again, creating a second crease slightly closer to the tip to create the impression of hands sticking out of sleeves. Valley-fold the upper of the two bottom points so the tip extends above the top of the current shape.

Bend the arms down, allowing the paper to fold along the fan-like creases made previously. The upper tip in the center should gently fold over, making Mary's headscarf. Insert the triangular shape at the base of the paper into the back of the triangular body on the other piece of paper, connecting Mary's head, cloak and arms to her body.

Baby Jesus

Rotate a square of origami paper, light side up, so one point is facing you. Fold all four corners into the center.

Fold the edges of the top flap straight up to slightly pass the upper edge, squashing together to create an almost rectangular extra flap in the middle. This flap will be Jesus' head. Ensure that the head is at least twice as tall as it is wide.

Valley-fold the upper edge down, with a horizontal crease on a level with the bottom of the head. Fold the part of the head that extends beyond the rest of the flap back up again and bend the tip diagonally downward to make the baby's hair.

Fold the left and right sides in until they are lined up with either side of Jesus' head. Fold the bottom up to meet his chin, making the blanket. Mountain-fold the remaining left and right sides back until they point straight away from you, forming the legs of the manger. The infant Jesus should rest upon these two edges.

Sheep

Rotate a square of origami paper, light side up, so one point is facing you. Valley-fold the top and bottom right sides inward to meet along the middle, forming the classic origami "kite base." Valley-fold the right corner to meet the left and fold the top and bottom corners with horizontal creases to meet the edges of this right fold. Unfold the right flap again with a crease slightly closer to the tip, creating a crimp.

Valley-fold the top half of the paper to meet the bottom half. This is the rough shape of the sheep, with the point on the right being its future head. Valley-fold and unfold the left corner to meet the bottom edge of the paper, making a crease. Mountain-fold the corner inward along this crease and valley-fold the tip out again, allowing it to stick straight up out the left side. This is the tail.

Perform a combination mountain and valley fold on the right tip, squashing it toward yourself, forming the sheep's head the same way you do that of a swan in the traditional model. Mountain-fold the tip inward to blunt its nose and valley-fold the bottom of the neck up on both sides to make it thinner and create ears.

Fold down the tail and squash the bottom edge inward on both sides, giving the sheep legs.

Tips & Warnings

  • Origami instructions can be difficult to follow without explanatory images. See Resources for a link to a PDF containing diagrams illustrating every step of these and several other nativity models.
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