With approximately three weeks until Christmas, primary school teachers across the country are slowly winding down in preparation to the end of term. Casually sharing Christmas plans over a biscuit and coffee in the staff room and looking forward to “all that time off they get in the school holidays” STOP! As much as that may seem the case to some unknowing parents, the truth is far from tranquil. As already weeks into preparations and now hurtling towards them at an unnerving speed is none other than …. the Nativity.
The Nativity, an annual event on most school’s calenders whereby children will re-enact the story of the first Christmas. Of course there are many other types of school play which may substitute the nativity story but for this guide I will base it around the nativity as it is the most familiar. After working as a teacher for 7 years and now as a parent myself I feel I have a particular expertise in the nativity. Therefore in this survival guide I will be exploring the realities of the nativity both on and off stage. So without further a do, take your seats, curtains up …cue 4 fallen angels, 3 snotty shepherds, two bawling Kings and a teacher fuelled with coffee. Here is your guide to the nativity!
After reading the script the teacher’s next important role is to carefully allocate the parts to the children and distribute lines. As a teacher this filled with me dread as ultimately there would always be at least one parent who would be ringing that office bell as soon as you could say “Baby Jesus.” Common complaints have ranged from too small a part (basically wanted their child to be Mary) to too large a part (way too many extra curricular activities to be the inn keeper) Alas, once the dust has settled and the parents have accepted their child’s roles, they couldn’t be more proud of their little darling’s debut into impending stardom. I have come across many weird and wonderful parts in school productions. One of the funniest being an alternate version of the nativity, we chose to conduct, which was based on Christmas food. That year a crowd of seething parents congregated at the school office after receiving news their child would be a brussel sprout or parsnip. However at the performance, hearts swelled, smiles beamed and the tears of pride came flooding, as 30 items of food produce, sang ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ with angelic brilliance!
When I was teaching all costumes were homemade. By my daughter’s 2nd year at school I realised I had to dramatically up my game in terms of parental effort. Easter bonnet parades, craft competitions and other “design projects” had passed throughout that first year of her schooling and I noted with unease that the standard of crafting was distinctly high compared to my own attempts and past experience in schools. Therefore, when Alice gained her part as Inn Keeper in the school nativity, I set to work with all the creativeness I could muster to create an outfit fit for a King let alone an inn keeper. The night of the performance arrived and I eagerly awaited my little girl’s arrival on stage with her class mates. And there she stood, in her dad’s over sized T-shirt, tied at the waist with a dressing gown rope, with the legendary t – towel head-dress, surrounded by her class mates dressed in wonderful shop bought costumes. Nonetheless, this year when the parts were sent home, she asked if we could have a look in Sainburys for her costume this year.
As a child during nativity preparations, my dad once compared my singing to Barbara Windsor on helium. Luckily for my husband and I my daughter, unlike her mother, can successfully hold a tune and therefore can be pleasant to listen to. However after the 500th rendition of Little Donkey even her sweet little voice can become insufferable. Teachers will gladly send home song sheets with the instruction to learn the songs off by heart. Alas do not be fooled into thinking the chorus will stop after the nativity, some songs can be continued well into the Easter holidays.
Tickets – The majority of schools I have taught at provide the children with 2 nativity tickets. I can safely say there will always be some kind of disagreement about another parent being able to have an extra ticket for some distant relative. The School Gate Mafia will be quick to pounce on this with venom and antipathy and therefore the extra ticket will either be revoked or seething looks will bore into the owner of ticket number 3s soul as they nervously watch the nativity.
Stage Directions – Your child has spent weeks perfecting these lines in rehearsals both at school and home. During their big moment they shine and you couldn’t be more proud. Although once their part has been completed and they return to their seat there are a few unwelcome stage directions you forgot to discuss. My son vigorously picked his nose like a man mining for gold at the front of the Harvest Festival, ingesting the odd tasty number. Unfortunately children will fidget, pick their nose, scratch, pull faces or sneakily pinch their neighbouring child through performances. Directions that are most definitely not part of the script!
Tears – As a teacher I would roll my eyes at the parents bawling during the nativity. The only tears I would have cried at that time were tears of relief that the whole event was over . Then I became a parent and at my daughter’s first nativity a panicked feeling arose in my stomach as I was consumed in emotion and sat weeping like a baby as my little inn keeper sang Away in a Manger for the 9000th time that December. Tissues are a necessity for all first timers at the nativity!
I hope you have enjoyed my survival guide to the nativity and if you are attending a nativity or production in the next couple of weeks – thoroughly enjoy it! I don’t know anybody who doesn’t enjoy a nativity, even the teachers. They give you that warm fuzzy feeling in your stomach and are great at spreading that real festive magic. Best of luck to all the children, parents and teachers involved in their performances!
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