Why do traditional nativity sets have a bagpiper?

Many traditional nativity sets include a bagpiper, and this may be a little puzzling for folks who don't know the tradition of the zampogna. Why does a nativity set have a bagpiper?

My great aunt's nativity scene, which I display every year, includes a bagpiper. My first thoughts on seeing this figure many years ago were - playing bagpipes? For a baby? Doesn't seem like the most soothing of ideas.

In Italy, where the nativity display tradition began, shepherds would entertain by playing the zampogna, or Italian bagpipes, and charitable townspeople would give donations in return. So while bagpipers were not likely to have been present in Bethlehem at the birth of Jesus, they are a shepherding tradition from Italy and their presence in a nativity set pays homage to the origins of the nativity display. 

Do you have a nativity set with a zampogna? Send us a photo and we'll add it to our blog.

Do you want a bagpiper for your nativity display? Here are some we offer. Click on the photos and it will take you right to the bagpiper shown.

5 inch scale Nativity Bagpiper

7.5 inch scale nativity bagpiper18" scale nativity bagpiper