All the joys of the Nursery School Nativity
The photo says it all doesn’t it. Deserted old baby doll, an MDF crib and a hastily assembled sheep made from silver foil rolls, cotton wool and PVC glue. Add to this several pairs of gold cardboard wings, some tinsel halos, 3 paper crowns (sharp-edge free), plenty of stripy sheets and even more recycled curtains and what do you have? The show any perfect Christmas wouldn’t be without: the School Nativity. It’s the pride and joy of every parent, but also the source of their greatest anxiety: Will they remember their words? Will they cry or have a tantrum mid-way through? Or will they, like the nightmare of one parent at a nativity my sister attended last year, projectile vomit all over the front row of the audience? For the teachers, even the smallest nativity is a mass production of prodigious strategic complexity… reminding the children to smile, to sing, to stop picking their noses, steering the little angels in the right direction, and pulling them away from where they’re not meant to be, remembering the words to the carols on their behalf and of course watching out for that same nativity-shattering tantrum.
Today was my first visit to a nursery school nativity since I myself took the starring role of Wise Man back in 1987. I was the proud uncle to my dear 3 year old nephew, whose performance of Innkeeper 2 (although we never saw number 1) was surely worthy of a nativity Oscar. With a dashing pair of orange curtains and a stripy tea towel making him every inch the Bethlehem local, he played his part seamlessly, without any of the dilemmas forecast above. But amidst his younger peers, particularly those newcomers trussed up in cotton wool outfits as sheep, or tinsel and paper wings as angels, the tears rippled through the ranks with a domino effect. First the eyes, seeking out parents in the packed audience, started to water; then, with eyes closed tight, as if in slow motion, the first gut-wrenching cry began to emerge. No sooner had that child been hastily picked up and removed so as not to disturb the plodding rendition of Away in a Manger, than another was set off by the disturbance, and so the process continued, while all the time, the older children carried out their roles with pride, and yet some apparent confusion. The carols were well sung, and surprisingly, the little 2-4 year olds remembered an awful lot of the words. Sadly in our case, the songs had to be somewhat hastily recited and the show quickly wrapped up – The nursery school decided that despite its being a typical English December – i.e. freezing – it would be a good idea to hold this year’s nativity outside (apparently the new school facilities weren’t big enough for an inside show). So with only their little sheets/ curtains/ cotton wool/ tinsel for comfort, the poor children started very quickly turning into ice. Meanwhile, the audience, cramped unusually close together (for a reserved english crowd) in order to keep warm, struggled to take photos as our limbs started to fossilise in the cold.
But one can’t moan. This is what Christmas is all about – rocking out the traditions whatever the weather, ensuring that our little ones are full of the magic we experienced as youngsters, and which as adults we can invariably only find in the depths of a large glass of mulled wine. So before I go off and find that same magic in a bottle of the red stuff, and while we’re on the subject of nativity, just time to share with you what has to be the best nativity set available on the market. Made by Italian kitchenware wizards, Alessi, this set of unbelievably cute ceramic figures in a very contemporary red (or white) glossy crib complete with smiling shooting star, grows every year, with new characters added on an annual basis. You can see a little animation of all the series on the Alessi website. And in the meantime, check out my photos below. Oh, and as ever… Happy Christmas!
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