Christmas: Ode to the Nativity
There are many things about the Christmas period that make your eyes sparkle and your heart burst with joy. There’s the food, the presents, the carolers, the decorations, warm fires, white snow (if your life is a movie) and mulled wine to name a few, but all of these things are dwarfed by the true wonder of Christmas – the annual Nativity play.
Truly, is there anything more glorious in the entire world? Once December hits, I start making my way through acquaintances, casually asking if they have any younger siblings/godchildren/nieces/nephews/illegitimate offspring who just so happen to be donning a teatowel or a tinsel halo this fine festive season. Usually this query is met with a wary glance, but now and again I strike gold and get the opportunity to sit in a school PE hall and watch the chaos unfold.
Schools in different areas of the country have their own way of running the yearly play, but all are united in their unintentional comedic results. My own experiences have so far been Dublin-based and traditionally, it’s the children from Junior and Senior Infants who have the honour of carrying the hefty responsibility of destroying the School Nativity.
More often than not, the Junior class will be dressed in their fathers’ white shirts with a circle of tinsel nestled among their curls and an awkward pair of homemade wings strapped to their backs – wings that will attack at least a hundred people at various stages of the night. The four and five-year-old cherubs will be placed in some kind of choir formation, being a little too temperamental to do any acting, and they will provide the musical interludes during the telling of The Tale of The Baby Jesus. They will joyfully shout out something that is vaguely recognisable as the tune to Little Donkey as they unknowingly hit each other with their tinfoil wings. One year, I had the pleasure of watching one Angel smack another Angel right in the face as he did the required ‘bell ringing’ gestures while singing with a little too much gusto. Cue crying and giggling and protests of ‘Ah Miss, it wasn’t me fault!’ as the entire song collapsed save for the one oblivious cutie in the front singing sweetly through the thumb stuck in her mouth.
The Senior Infants are the stars of the night though. Being an entire year older than Baby Infants, they have earned the right to actually learn lines and perform. Studying the roles in the Nativity is a good way to figure out who’s who in the class as the teachers handing out the parts prove that we really never get past our ‘clique’ days. The cast will be as follows:
- Mary: Will be played by the pretty, popular girl in class. She’s usually bright and more often than not, known for being a ‘singer’ or a stage school kid. She harbours a secret desire to marry Joseph.
- Joseph: A part given to the coolest boy in the class – popular, easy going and good at sports. There will also be a child in the production who will refer to him as ‘Jofiss’ for the entire night due to a speech impediment. You will probably find this hilarious and you will go straight to hell.
- The Narrators: Usually the smart kids who aren’t all that pleasant to look at and are probably lacking in social graces and/or personality.
- The Wise Men or The Three Kings: These will be played by the class clowns – fun, well-liked but there’s a risk of one of them belching loudly or starting a fight in the middle of the production.
- The Shepherds: These kids will be ‘the followers’ (go figure!) – they hang around with the cooler kids, but you can’t quite remember their names.
- The Angels With Lines: Usually they’re the kids who are friends with Mary and Joseph, but can’t quite get out of their shadows – these are The Gretchen Weiners of the class.
- The Innkeepers: The miscellaneous children that don’t really fit in anywhere and don’t have any obvious talents, but they’re grand, like. And last but not least…
- Sheep and Other Various Animals: The odd kids, the quiet kids, the kids who set fire to things. These kids are gold – a few of them will do something outrageous or get stage fright. Or curse. And very few things are funnier than a cursing child.
The audience will also provide some entertainment. You’ll have the parents who want to be up on stage playing the lead role and the parent who thinks their kid is the greatest thing ever (usually the kid with his finger stuck up his nose). There’s the parent who is mortified at whatever their child is doing on stage and the older siblings who are mortified by every single thing their little brothers or sisters do. Then there are the grandparents who say whatever comes into their heads about the children on stage and of course, the parents who are doing their best to hold in their cries of laughter for fear of emotionally stunting their son or daughter.
The Nativity Play was the brainchild of a super-genius. Nothing says ‘Christmas’ to me like the tuneless singing of children combined with the smell of Capri Sun and vomit and the feeling of tears streaming down my face as I struggle to breathe through the laughter. The Nativity Play is a thing of wonder and madness. In the words of Emma Thompson; ‘There was more than one lobster present at the birth of Jesus?’ Duh, Emma, duh.
Featured Image ©2007 Wesley Fryer and used under a Creative Commons licence.