Step by Step Christmas Manger Instructions

To help our family bring more emphasis on Jesus at Christmas time I built a manger.  We brought several new traditions into our home with this manger.

The first was, we put our present under the manger.  We still used a tree, but it was a small 2 foot tree next to the manger. This was better in our minds than a small manger ornament hanging in our tree

The second was that every time some one did something kind in our home they got to place hay in the manger. This was a great incentive for our kids.

The third was a search throughout the house for “the baby”.  We left the manger empty in anticipation of the baby who was about to arrive. We used a small baby doll (the most Middle Eastern looking baby we could find; please don’t use a white baby) and hid it somewhere in the house on Christmas Eve.  The kids were then set loose to find the baby Jesus.  Whoever found the baby got to place him in the manger. The best part about this was hearing our kids scream “We found Jesus! We found Jesus!”

I looked on the web for instructions on building a manger, but couldn’t find any.  I decided to build one and take pictures along the way just because I figured other people would be looking for the same information.

Step 1

Step 1

Here is everything I used.  A hammer, nails, an electric saw, one 1″x6″x48″ piece of wood and four 1″x2″x96″ pieces of wood.  The 1″x6″x48″ piece cost me $2.32.  The other pieces were $0.97 each.  Pretty cheap right.

Step 2

Step 2

I cut the 4 foot piece in half.  That’s two 2 foot pieces for those who are bad at math.  I then cut four 2 foot pieces of the 1″x2″ wood. I nailed two legs into each side as shown above.

Step 3

Step 3

Here is a detail of how I nailed the legs into the side.  Notice that I nailed the side into the 1 inch side of the leg.

Step 4


I cut four more 1″x2″x24″ pieces.  I then nailed them into slats underneath the 6″ side.  Make sure they are evenly spaced.  About 2 inches apart should be about right. At this point in the project I reflected on Jesus being a carpenter. . . .

Okay, cheesy religiously reflective moment over.  Let’s move on.

Step 5

Step 5

This is the part you didn’t think of on your own.  I cut two small 1″x2″x3″ pieces and nailed them to the left side of each half of the manger.  You’ll need these when we combine the two pieces.  Make sure you put them on the same side of each half of the manger.

Step 6


Here’s a close up of how I nailed that small piece on.

Step 7


Cross the two halves together into and “X” shape.  The bottom slat on each will help you find the middle. Put a nail right between the middle of the “X”.  The manger will fold up and down at this point.

Step 8


I cut two 16″ crossbars and nailed them to the top of each half of the manger.  Do you see my little 3″ piece there on the right.  You need that to make the cross bar even.

Step 9


Hey look, it works.  It’s actually standing.  I cut a bunch of little pieces and placed them at the bottom of the trough.  You may or may not need these.  You’ll also probably have some extra wood left over.  At less than $1 a piece I bought an extra 8 foot piece just in case I made a mistake.

Step 10


We put a blanket on the bottom to help catch the hay.  You can use whatever you want for the hay.  We bought a packet of rafia from a craft store for $4.  It was more than enough.

Step 11


Here’s the baby being placed on Christmas Eve.  You can see how much hay was placed in the manger over the advent weeks.

I hope this was helpful.  Good luck.