As the year enters its final month, Christmas is fast approaching. And with Christmas comes one of the greatest Christmas traditions - the school Nativity play. It’s time to squash into the slightly faded hall of your local primary school gymnasium and watch as 100 angels and 20 shepherds, wearing tea towels and bathrobes, crowd the stage. The Christmas story was never so well populated. It’s a yearly tradition and one that comes with shocking amounts of glitter and intense preparation.
“And it came to pass that in that year there came a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.” And there came another another decree that, all the schools should be decorated and all the teachers be the tiniest bit stressed and all the Parent Teacher Associations (PTA) should drown in fabric. The year 6 pupils should go forth onto the stage, taking with them a two-legged donkey and at least three inn-keepers. There they should house Mary and Joseph in a stable of cardboard and in that stable, surrounded by sheep and camels and maybe even a lobster, should lie a baby-born doll, over which the adorable, childish strains of the Christmas carol, Away in a Manger, should be sung.
If you have anything to do with the primary school scene, that trendy hip spot, ahead of the curve, place of the future, you will probably have something to do with the Nativity. As an adult you will most likely have one of three roles to play.
First is The Teacher. This nativity sounded like a great idea in the staff meeting. You even volunteered to write the script, which seemed like fun at first until you also remembered that the children’s reports were due. But nevertheless, you continued on. Rehearsals take up class time, which would be fine if you weren’t already expected to teach more than you have time for. But choir practice is more fun than geography anyway. So, you don’t mind too much.
Second, is the parent. Little Jimmy, Lucy, Raavi, or Crystal has been cast as a King, or donkey or maybe even, if they happen the luckiest and most talented child in 6A, as Mary. There is no greater honour. Your job isn’t too frantic, which is nice because everything tends to get frantic at Christmas. If you have any tasks it will be to source a tea towel, a shepherd is not a shepherd without a tea towel. That is the first rule of a primary school nativity. You may need to bake something for a bake sale too. The PTA will demand this of you.
Third is the PTA. (Perhaps the most terrifying non-violent organisation to exist in this world.) There are two categories you exist in. Either you are a member of the PTA, in which case you have everything to do with the Nativity. You are ordering fabrics for costumes, have found the funding for the backdrops and you are having weekly meetings about the ever-important bake sale. Or you are the poor parent who volunteered to help, because you wanted to get involved and love Christmas. You haven’t made a mistake. Just keep your head down, laugh with the other parents and try not to worry if Mary’s gown isn’t the exact shade of blue that Patricia, the one with the blonde bob, demanded. It doesn’t actually matter.
The play itself will be a success. It doesn’t take much for the play to be a success. Children dressed up and singing sweetly will always be considered cute. This guaranteed success means you can be brave enough to break away from a traditional Christmas play. After all, Avant Garde and experimental theatre had to begin somewhere. Don’t be afraid of having a #nativity. It can be glam, it can be glam rock.
A nativity can also act as social commentary. You won’t find primary schools shying away from important political issues. From homeless, teen mothers to refugees, there are plenty of modern-day metaphors to flesh out the play and provide a lead-in to the nativity story. Commercialism is also often brought into question by eight-year-olds. Presents aren’t the real reason for Christmas. Though please don’t interpret this to mean they don’t want presents. That’s not what they are saying at all.