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A piece of wood thought to be from Jesus’ manger arrives home to Bethlehem just in time for Christmas

AP and Reuters, December 5, 2019 7:00PM Kids News

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People parade through the streets of Bethlehem with a wooden relic believed to be from Jesus' manger on November 30, 2019. Picture: AP media_cameraPeople parade through the streets of Bethlehem with a wooden relic believed to be from Jesus' manger on November 30, 2019. Picture: AP


Reading level: green

A tiny piece of wood that some Christians believe to be part of the baby Jesus’ manger* has returned to Bethlehem after 1400 years away.

Cheerful crowds greeted the piece of wood – in an ornate* case – before it was taken into the Franciscan Church of St Catherine next to the Church of the Nativity, the holy site where tradition says Jesus was born on Christmas Day.

media_cameraA wooden relic (in an ornate frame) believed to be from Jesus’ manger is seen at the Notre Dame church in Jerusalem. Picture: AP

The manger was sent to Rome as a gift to Pope Theodore I in the 640s and was kept in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, Italy.

The return of the tiny piece — just a few centimetres long – was just in time for Advent, a four-week period leading up to Christmas, when pilgrims* from around the world flock to the city.

media_cameraChristian clergymen carry the wooden relic outside the Notre Dame church in Jerusalem. Picture: AP

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had asked Pope Francis to borrow the entire manger, but the Pope decided to send a tiny portion* of it to stay permanently in Bethlehem.

No one can know for sure whether baby Jesus really was placed in this wooden manger, but that doesn’t stop many Christian pilgrims from wanting to see it and from squeezing through a narrow sandstone entrance in the Church of the Nativity to visit the birth grotto*.

“We are proud that part of the manger is back in Bethlehem because we feel that the soul of God is with us more than before,” said Bethlehem local Chris Giacamana, 53, as she stood outside the church.

media_cameraChristian clergymen pray next to a wooden relic believed to be from Jesus’ manger at the Notre Dame church in Jerusalem. Picture: AP

Others were a little let down.

“It’s a small piece, we thought it would be a bigger piece,” said Sandy Shahin Hijazeen, 32. “When we heard that the manger is coming back we thought it would be the whole manger, but then we saw it.”


  • manger: rack or trough for animals to eat hay from
  • ornate: with detailed decorations
  • pilgrims: travellers on a journey to a holy or religious place
  • portion: part of
  • grotto: small cave-like space


‘Tis the season for Christmas customs and traditions

The history behind our decorations

Festive foods and where they come from


  1. Where is the rest of the manger?
  2. When did the manger leave Bethlehem?
  3. Who is Mahmoud Abbas and why is he in the story?
  4. What do people squeeze through and what are they going to see?
  5. How did Sandy feel before and when the piece of wood arrived?


1. A letter of thanks or disappointment
Sandy Shahin Hijazeen seems somewhat disappointed with the piece of manger that was returned. Others are content with the gift from Rome.

Imagine you are a local of Bethlehem, how would you feel if this was returned to you? Write a short letter to the current Pope (Pope Francis) either thanking him or explaining your disappointment with the gift. Include details about the situation to show your understanding of the article. Make sure you include reasons why you are happy or not happy with the gift. Remember even if you were disappointed with the gift you should be gracious and polite in your letter.

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Intercultural Understanding, Personal and Social Capability

2. Extension
Although the story of Jesus’ birth will be familiar to people of the Christian faith, many other people will not know the significance of this piece of wood.

Write a plaque that could be placed with the ornate case to explain to visitors what they are looking at. Give a brief explanation of where the wood came from, where the rest of the manger is and why Christians may feel it is significant. You may need to do some research on what Christians believe about the story of Jesus’ birth.

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Intercultural Understanding

Verb adventures
With a partner see if you can identify all the doing words/verbs in this text. Highlight them in yellow and then make a list of them all down your page. Now see if you and your partner can come up with a synonym for the chosen verb. Make sure it still makes sense in the context it was taken from.

Try to replace some of the original verbs with your synonyms and discuss if any are better and why.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Pilgrims travel to Bethlehem to visit where they believe Jesus was born. Would you be interested to see this piece of wood and this place? Why or why not?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

The kit includes 50 fun and educational activities media_cameraThe kit includes 50 fun and educational activities

On Friday, December 6, Kids News will release its digital inquiry kit on How the World Celebrates Christmas.

It comes with 50 activities about Christmas in a digital workbook for just $5, including GST.

The kit will help students understand the history and evolution of Christmas, the religious and cultural aspects of its celebration and how traditions vary across the world.

It aims to encourage students to consider how they can think of and spread kindness to others during the festive season. Plus there are fun activities to get students into the Christmas spirit!

The kit content covers:

World festivals of Christmas

History of common traditions and characters

Food, culture, songs and movies of Christmas

How to have a sustainable Christmas

How to say Merry Christmas across the world

Fun Christmas facts and world records

The workbook is supported by feature stories on How the World Celebrates Christmas under our Education Kits topic page at

These stories will assist your students to answer the questions in the workbook.

Note: No printed papers will be included with the kit.

Extra Reading in history