The exhibition was settled up in 1976, in order to reaffirm crèche, a typical Italian tradition threatened by the new trend of Christmas tree, a symbol that does not belong to Italian culture.
"100 Presepi" was launched with the goal of bringing back in popularity, especially among children and youth, crèches done with fantasy and craftsmanship: no matter the material used, the most important thing is that the cribs were respectful of peace and fraternity, values which the crèche represents. In order to revive the tradition of making a family crib built on a personal project, so that the crib, representing the Nativity, could reaffirms the family model as the cornerstone of society.
The exhibition aims to achieve another purpose, namely the diffusion abroad of the typically Italian tradition of the crèche through the great number of tourists who come to Rome and visit the exhibition during Christmas time, and through the mass media.
The international scope of the exhibition is testified by the influx of new crèches from abroad displayed every year: out of 200 nativity scenes, 50 of them come from countries representing North and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa.
As per tradition, the exhibition is organized under the patronage of: the President of the Italian Republic and of the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI); the Italian Republic Senate; the Chamber of Deputies; the Cabinet Office; Ministry of National Heritage and Culture; Region of Lazio; Rome City Hall and National Italian Municipality Association. The title "100 PRESEPI" (100 Crèches) is just an historical reference, as it remembers the number of crèche displayed during the very first edition. The crèches, which are renewed every year, come from all over Italy and from about 25 foreign countries. The crèches are the work of Italian and foreigners artists, craftspeople, museums, collectors, amateurs, students of Rome and other parts of Italy, cultural and social associations, state and local companies, national and international museums. The scenes are made with all sorts of materials, ranging from coral to silver, porcelain, glass, bronze, ceramic, clay, wrought iron, wood, and papier-mâché. Very often is used also material as chocolate, bread, corncobs, corn, corks and buttons, shells, pasta, spark plugs, pencils and so on.
The crèches are made in different sized, ranging from the basso-relievo miniature reproduced inside a nutshell to the man-high ones.
The scenes present many different settings: from the classic examples of the 17th and 18th century in Naples and Sicily and of the 19th century in Rome to futuristic ones shining with crystals, metals and colored lights , cars engines, televisions, and so on.
The vintage crèches and figurines, coming from museums and private collections, are works created by the most important exponents of the past and come from the regions which hold the most ancient cribs tradition, as Campania, Lazio, Liguria, Apulia and Sicily, and from abroad.
During the last six editions, the exhibition has been awarded of a silver shield from the President of the Italian Republic, and of shields and medals from the Italian Senate and from the Chamber of Deputies. Moreover, during the jubilee celebrations it received the Jubilee logo, which sanctioned the event as the Official Event of the Holy Year.