On my way back from the station yesterday afternoon I saw the children from the local primary school trekking to the big assembly hall in the village for the nativity play. There was Mary, in the now-traditional floor length Frozen gown, Joseph wearing some sort of brown sack, many more than three kings with yellow paper crowns adorned with shiny stars, and an entire herd of sheep, zebras and giraffes. The animal onesie is, indeed, God’s gift to nativity plays.
It brought a lump to my throat, it really did. The teachers were slightly grim-faced, though. For them, it was going to be a long afternoon of trying to make sure the shepherds didn’t get lost en route and stopping fights among the flocks. And that was before the parents even descended. Trying to minimise the pain of those whose offspring have been chosen as Donkey Number 14 instead of the mother of God, and attempting to contain the smugness of those whose children did get starring roles, is enough to get anyone reaching for the Nurofen Migraine Plus.
I still feel cheated that my children didn’t get the chance to do a Nativity play. At the right age, we were in the wrong place – the European School in Brussels, which had a strict secular policy. Or so we thought, until the German section took matters into their own hands and put on a full Nativity, finishing with a multi-talented Mary producing a violin from behind the manger and giving us a very long, loud rendition of Silent Night.
Now that my children are past Nativity age, I would be the perfect audience. Unstressed by forgotten lines, collapsing mangers and bickering amongst the angelic host, I could sit back and truly enjoy the experience as few involved parents ever can. Maybe I should just gate-crash other people’s Nativity plays. Or maybe wait for the grandchildren …. in the meantime, here’s a little film below from the Arts Council, encouraging us to all get cultural over Christmas.