The word manger has three different meanings, but they are all related. On the one hand, it is the container used by farmers to feed domestic livestock. At the same time and the most used, it is the location of this container, in this sense it becomes synonymous with a stable. Finally, it is a term with a unique meaning, as Jesus Christ was born in a manger.
Mangers and livestock activities
For thousands of years, humans have survived thanks to hunting, fishing and farming. Approximately 10,000 years ago, humans created agriculture and livestock and, in this way, were able to abandon nomadism and remain in a territory . Livestock is based on raising animals in order to domesticate them and, later, consume products such as meat and milk. For the domestic animals to be productive it was necessary to feed them and the manger became a place for feeding the cattle. Obviously, in addition to food, they had a place to drink water and that’s why their drinking fountains were created.
The manger has evolved throughout history. Currently these eaters are metallic, circular in shape and made with recycled materials, however, in the past, they were made of stone, wood or baked clay.
The fact that the manger is normally in a stable causes some confusion, as both terms are sometimes used interchangeably, as is the case in relation to the place of Jesus’ birth (to indicate this place, we can cite one term or another, both are valid).
The manger in the Christian tradition
According to Luke’s gospel, Jesus of Nazareth was born in a manger because the Virgin Mary and Joseph had nowhere else to stay. This biblical passage indicates that the word manger is to be understood as a stable.
The tradition of the manger as a representation of the place where Jesus was born began in the 13th century and its creator was Saint Francis of Assisi. This religious was weak and sick and wanted to celebrate Christmas in a special way.
Inspired by the Bible, he thought that inside a cave he could recreate the birth of Jesus in a real way, that is, in a living manger. In this way, Saint Francis of Assisi prepared the scene of Jesus’ birth with characters representing Mary, Joseph, shepherds accompanied by oxen and, of course, a newborn baby who played the role of Jesus. With this recreation, a tradition began that remains alive today, the nativity scene.