Friday, December 09, 2005

The Christmas Nativity: The Show Must Go On

Parents of primary school children are flocking to assembly halls this month to see the English Christmas tradition that is the nativity play.

My American friends need to know that in this country there's no pussy-footing around Christmas. EVERYONE, regardless of religion, nationality or preference, is understood to be celebrating Christmas. If you're not, or even offended by it, well, that's just too bad for you, as far as the English are concerned. In the U.S., on the other hand, people bend over backwards not to offend anyone, so it seems that there's less and less "Merry Christmas" greetings these days. Even Banana Republic, in an effort to include everyone, says, "Happy Winter." What's so happy about Winter? It's cold, you get frostbite, there'a real chance you'll break a limb on the ice. But I digress.

English primary schools traditionally mount a Christmas nativity play. Now some schools, it has been reported, have stopped doing this. Our school has not. I have to say, the first time I heard that they did a nativity play in a public school, it struck me as odd. But now I'm completely assimilated, so it doesn't bother me in the least (though I wouldn't go as far to say, "that's just too bad for you if you don't like it).

As with any quality production, the backstage drama was nearly more interesting than the play itself. Abby, the original actor chosen to play Mary, caught a terrible case of stage fright, so Poppy, her understudy, was brought in to play the part. Poppy stole the show and I'm sure she'll go on to great dramatic things. Meanwhile, Jack (the most shy boy in the class), turned white as a ghost and nearly lost his lunch when asked to be a Three King. His mother had take him home early that day, such was the pressure of appearing as a king. They picked someone else. When asked what part he had, Isaac, another Year One student, told his mother, "I'm a nothing." He was, in fact, a supplementary king. We are also lucky enough to be Close Personal Friends with the actor playing Joseph, though we were not lucky enough to get an autograph. Andrew, clapping off the beat ("It looks like he got your rhythm," Tim said), was chosen to be in the choir.

You certainly know the story, so there's no point in recounting it. Off-tune singing and ambivalent dancing featured prominently in this year's production, but there still wasn't a dry eye in the house. The actors and performers received a standing ovation when it was all over. Then they had to go back to class.

1 comment:

Gawblimeyman said...

I was in Cologne a few days ago. At the station, on the way back to the airport, there was a stage set up and local primary school kids were doing some sort of nativity thing. Only watched for a couple of minutes, and couldn't understand a word of it. It was more entertaining watching the paresnts shove each other, trying to get the best views with their camera phones!