Padre Pio's great love for the crib started when he is a child.
Padre Pio practised this great devotion to the crib, which is so reminiscent of Saint Francis, even as a child when he lived with his parents. At his home in Pietrelcina, he always wanted to prepare the crib himself. He would start work on it as early as October. While he pastured the family’s flock of sheep with his friends, he would search for the clay which he would use to fashion the small statues of shepherds, sheep, and the other characters which he would place in the crib scene. He became very quick and accomplished in this task, and would prepare statuettes for his friends, too.
The picture above shows examples of clay figures for a crib, but are there any pictures of Padre Pio's handmade figures for his family crib?
He would take particular care when making the model of the Baby Jesus. He would make and re-make the Christ-child continually, remembered one of his playmates, Luigi Orlando. When he had finished he would place the statue on the palm of his hand and say; ‘It isn’t as I wanted it.’ He would then roll the statue into a ball of clay again, and make another statue more to his liking.The young Francesco, the future Padre Pio, wanted his crib scene to be as beautiful as possible. He also wished to light it up to make the scene as evocative as possible. At that time in Pietrelcina, there was no electricity and it was necessary to use oil lights. They had to be very small to enable Francesco to insert them in the moss, next to the tiny houses and beside the flocks of sheep.
The ingeniousness of the young boy was remarkable for those times. Francisco and his friends had learned to make lights made from snail shells. They would look for empty shells in the fields, clean them well, fill them with oil, add a wick and they would thus have a magnificent little lantern.
From the essay on Padre Pio at Christmas time by Renzo Allegri.