In Mexico, during Christmas season, in schools, kermesses, family gatherings and even in some social events, small plays which main characters are the shepherd of Bethlehem and the Holy Family are represented. IThese Nativity plays show how Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph traveled and struggled to welcome the Saviour.
The first Nativity play took place during 1530, when Brother Juan de Zumárraga, first bishop of New Spain, issued an ordinance to celebrate a staged Christmas honoring the coming of the Holy Child. Later, with lay authors, these performances distanced from their purely religious content to acquire a more popular one, reflecting customs and life forms from different regions, thus originating many local versions.
Nativity plays plot revolves around the journey of some shepherds trying to get to Bethlehem to worship the newborn baby, but a group of devils do everything in order to prevent it. In the end, Satan is defeated by St. Michael or an angel, and the shepherd give gifts for the infant.
The main characters are the shepherds, devils, angels, archangels and the hermit. There are often other additional roles such as Indians, ranchers and monks. Virgin Mary, St. Joseph and the Holy Child are often depicted as figurines. In some plays, people portray them, but they do not have any lines.
The performance includes dialogues, carols and dances, as well as the staging of battles. The plot is always the same, but what varies is the creativity used to present it. The language used is always simple and has been transmitted by oral tradition as it can be performed in streets, squares or even in churches. Currently, there are Nativity plays with a more elaborated script, presented on a formal stage, within a theater, auditorium or cultural center and where professional actors are involved.