The Cavalinho headquarters in São Paio de Oleiros, Santa Maria da Feira, is hosting the largest moving nativity scene in the world this winter, a 2,000 square metre area filled with 7,000 figurines, which has already received over 50,000 visitors.
The annual project, that combines religious elements with kitsch figures and ornaments was started eight years ago by Manuel Jacinto, director of the renowned handbag, shoe and leatherwork brand Cavalinho. Mr. Jacinto says that “the nativity scene will continue to be open free to the public for as long as I can built it” and as long as there are people to help. Much of the help comes in the form of volunteers and other companies that dedicate up to 16 hours per day to the nativity scene during the busiest days.
Work on the structure, which includes sensors so that the pieces move when there are visitors nearby, started in May and includes religious scenes such as the baby in the manger and the apparition to the three shepherds, as well as non-religious scenes including the governor of Madeira dancing with the President of Portugal, and the late Fado singer Amália, among other well known characters.
Metalworker Jorge Moreira, who is in charge of making the nativity pieces move, said: “I spend all of my spare time and even take a few days off in the year for this.”
“I dedicate hundreds of hours per year to the nativity scene, I don’t know how many exactly, and I make almost all of the pieces, except the motors and some accessories that I have to buy,” he added.
Volunteer Joaquim Coelho, who is in charge of making the smaller pieces move, by adapting industrial factory pieces to the nativity scene recalls: “this started small…it grew to become the largest nativity scene in the world and we have to appreciate this work because the people who visit also appreciate it.”
Electrician José Silva, who prepares the lighting for the 2,000 square metre nativity scene spends up to “14 or 16 hours a day on it,” adding that the public may not realise but “there are almost 50km of electric cables and 3,000 LED lamps.”
“Not to mention a good few tonnes of stones, nine waterfalls and three truck loads of clay, sand and black earth,” adds volunteer Joaquim Silva, who works as a leather cutter for Cavalinho.
The Cavalinho nativity scene is free for the public to visit until March 2013, open daily from 9am until midnight and until 2am at weekends.