How To Choose A Nativity Set

Nativity sets are a classic Christmas decoration, and as such, occupy the fond holiday memories of many people. Eventually, it may come time to purchase your own if you have new living arrangements or are simply in the market for more holiday decorations.

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Below we'll cover the wide variety of styles, materials and sizes that Nativity sets come in. We'll also cover the situations where each feature makes the most sense.

How to Select the Style of a Nativity Set?

Nativity sets come in several distinctive styles, each of which match a certain holiday decorating theme.

Wood Carvings

These are made to look like the individual pieces were hand-carved from wood, and many sets were. Choose wood carvings if you have a rustic home style or are going for a classic country Christmas theme.

Carved Wooden 10 Piece nativity Set
11 Piece Pine Wood Nativity Scene
Driftwood Carved Nativity Scene
Olive Wood Nativity Set with Carved Figures
Olive Wood Small Grotto Carved in Branch
Petite Wooden Carved Nativity Scene Set


A more modern approach is a whole Nativity set in one color, like a bright white. Choose a monochrome for more modern Christmas decorating themes. White sets fit well with modern holiday themes that make use of unconventional color schemes, like a black and white Christmas.


These Nativity scenes are made to look as detailed as possible, with flowing robes on the characters and realistic facial features. These look good in timeless transitional or classic home designs, as many older Nativity sets came in this style.

8 Piece Realistic Nativity Set
11 Piece Realistic Christmas Nativity Set with Colored Accents
11 Piece Realistic Nativity Set
Wooden Realistic 11 Piece Nativity Set
21 Piece Realistic Nativity Set

Kid's Styles

Kid's styles are typically more conceptual. The figures will not be as detailed and have more of a cartoon or toy appearance. For instance, a set might be made of felt and the figures could have little button noses. These work well in children's rooms or play areas.


These are Nativity sets that you can see through and may light from within. They look good in modern home and holiday styles.

4 Piece Glass Nativity Set
Holy Family in Stable Christmas Nativity
Holy Family LED Lighted Christmas Nativity Scene Decoration Figurine
Holy Family LED Lighted Christmas Nativity Scene Decoration Figurine
ED Holy Family in Stable Nativity Scene Decoration
Lighted Holy Family Ice Nativity


Some Nativity sets are made of a metal and usually have fewer details so they look more conceptual. This is another updated style that works well in modern spaces.

12 Piece Metal Christmas Nativity Set
Auto Part Holy Family Nativity Set
9 Piece Auto Part Nativity Scene Set
Metal Christmas Tree with Nativity
Metal Nativity Set
Metal Nativity Stable Figurine


You might also see a flat Nativity scene that just features the silhouettes of the figures, often in a silvery color. This is another fun conceptual modern take on the design.

Three Piece Metal Nativity Set
Four Piece NOEL Metal Nativity Set
Simple Metal Nativity Set
Silhouette Nativity Set
Metal Silhouette Nativity Scene


Some Nativity sets display characters of a certain culture, such as a Nativity set where the characters are all Peruvian. If you're focused on family heritage or exotic cultures in a holiday decorating theme, choose Nativity sets that fit a certain culture.

6 Piece In the Amazon Ceramic Nativity Set
7 Piece Mapuche Family Ceramic Nativity Set
8 Piece Inuit Family Ceramic Nativity Set
Cultural Nativity Coconut Shell Sculpture
Nativity Inside A Chullo Hat Ceramic Nativity Scene
8 Piece Nativity Set

What Are the Sizes of Nativity Sets?

Most Nativity sets are sized to be tabletop or mantel additions. Individual figures in miniature varieties might measure around 5 inches high by 1.5 inches wide by 1.5 inches deep.

Nativity sets often come with three, seven, 11 or 21 pieces in the set. Three-piece sets often have Joseph, Mary and Baby Jesus. Seven-piece sets usually have the wise men and angels added. 11-piece sets typically have a host of stable animals as well. 21-piece sets often have added backdrops like the stable and trees.

It's also common to find sets that come with boxy stables as a backdrop. Tabletop varieties used as an accent might measure around 7 inches high by 10 inches wide by 4 inches deep.

Start by measuring however much table or mantel space you have and decide on set sizes from there.

But outdoor Nativity sets are meant to be seen from the road. Today, it's common to see them as flat pieces that depict Jesus' birth. They may measure around 3 feet high by 2 feet wide.

What Materials do Nativity Sets Come In?

Nativity sets also come in a wide variety of materials, each of which imparts its own texture.

  • Stone: This durable material is good if you want to use the set indoors or out, and it can give a more rustic look.
  • Felt: Sewn felt Nativity sets give a fun look for a child's Nativity set.
  • Polyresin/resin: This molded material often gives the highest degree of detail possible. Choose rein if you're looking for a realistic texture.
  • Porcelain/ceramic: This delicate material is usually used to create a shiny monochrome style, so it's great for modern styles. Some sets also go for a more handcrafted artisan style, which is great for home styles that make use of art and culture.
  • Metal: Usually made of alloy or steel, silvery metal styles give a high seen and modern texture.
  • Clay: The texture on clay can look either more rustic and handmade or a glaze can give it a more modern and sleek texture.
  • Plastic: This is a solid option if you're looking for something more affordable. Some plastic models will also be clear and might light from within. 
  • Wood: Many wood models are built to be rustic and look handmade, often with bark textures, so choose this material for country or cabin styles.
11 Piece Handcrafted Ceramic Nativity Scene Set
Olive Wood Nativity Set with Carved Figures

Quick Tips

Nativity sets are very artistic, and as such, come in a wide variety of styles. To make things simpler, here are some key points to remember:

  • Start by deciding what type of holiday theme you are going for. You might choose a classic, country, modern or even kitschy Christmas.  
  • Depending on your holiday's theme, that will inform what style of Nativity set you buy. For instance, a metal silhouette set would go well with a modern Christmas theme.
  • You can also start by looking at the overall theme of your home to inform what style of set you'll buy. For instance, rustic homes go well with textured wooden Nativity sets.
  • Where you plan to place the set will inform its size. In general, the more room you have, the more you can play around with the number of figures that are in the set, as well.
  • To be frank about it, with a purchase like this, the style is more important than the material it is made out of. The style will often inform what material you buy. However, if you plan to use it outside, make sure it's listed for outdoor use.