Cowart's Common Room
Nativity plays

So, we had ours last night - 'Holy Joe', a take on the traditional Christmas story celebrating Joseph, the usung hero of the piece. It was lovely, but I feel a little over-produced. Loads of shop-bought costumes, a girl singing solos with a 'stage school' coached voice and an ersatz American accent, troupes of little lambs doing a 'High School Musical' number...

What I long for, and what brings a tear to my eye, is a bunch of children in years-old costumes from the dressing-up box, tea-towels on their heads and cotton wool sheep outfits singing tunelessly and lisping through the gaps in their teeth. The first time I saw 'Holy Joe' it was exactly that - Mary and Joseph with no front teeth, all the littlest ones in tea-towel head-dresses just coming on stage to sing. And as the mother of a littlie that was fine by me, I knew he was too young to play a real part. But now, every child has to have a chance to shine - endless dances and extras. It does rather take away from the magic of the school play. Is it our fixation with celebrity and perfection that has made it thus? Maybe I'm just stuck in a time-warp.

I know that some parents will feel they haven't the time, skill or inclination to make a costume, but really, the best one last night was the little boy whose Mum had stuck cotton wool balls over a white t-shirt to make a sheep. As he danced about they started dropping off, it really made me smile.

Posted at 17th Dec 2008 - 02:59PM   Posted by KittyB   Nativity plays Comments: 20

Mootia's Avatar I agree, Kitty. The best thing about school plays is when things go innocently wrong (like when Mary drops the baby, etc)...and bring back the tea-towels!

Posted by: Mootia on 17th Dec 2008 at 03:20PM

Angel's Avatar A woman after my own heart. By co-incidence my blog is about my sons school play and how lovely it was....particularly nice that at 7-9 years old there was still a nativity scene in it!

Posted by: Angel on 17th Dec 2008 at 03:40PM

Preseli Mags's Avatar We had ours on Monday. The school alternates between full scale shows and concerts and this was concert year.

They did 'Mam Maria' - the nativity set to music by ABBA (with a bit of Queen's 'We Will Rock You' thrown in for good measure) and (mostly) sung and spoken in Welsh.

As it was a concert the children all wore plain coloured t-shirts. Not a tea towel in sight, sadly. I do adore the traditional nativity with cotton wool sheep, but this too was absolutely totally and utterly fabulous. If you haven't seen 'Waterloo' (or, in this case, 'Bethlehem') sung with gusto in Welsh by over 100 primary school children, you haven't lived!

Posted by: Preseli Mags on 17th Dec 2008 at 04:25PM

LittleBrownDog's Avatar Totally agree with you, Kitty. What gets me is all the parents with their camcorders jostling to get to the front, not caring whether the grannies at the back can see anything at all so long as they get a good ten minutes of their child performing - not the Christmas spirit at all. It's a long time ago since my boy was in nativity plays, but I clearly remember him playing the Innkeeper and getting his lines totally wrong, throwing the whole thing into confusion. Instead of offering Mary & Joseph his stable, he just said "Sorry, not today thank you" and shut the inn door in their faces. Surprised Wonder where he got that from Embarassed

Posted by: LittleBrownDog on 17th Dec 2008 at 04:40PM

Exmoorjane's Avatar Couldn't agree more, Kitty. We've been lucky in the tea-towel stakes - have seen James as a king (twice) and as Joseph (twice) and as an angel (ho ho ho). Made me cry every time. Also hilarious as LBD says . We had our own innkeeper moment when a certain child was the innkeeper and I heard a parent behind me whisper to another ('well how suitable is that, given the amount the parents drink?'). Said child then welcomed in the holy couple with 'Do you fancy a vodka?'
Then James saying, in a decidedly estuarine tone 'Mary's 'aving a baby'......and Mary snatching baby Jesus up by one leg before neatly tossing him into her arms. Priceless.

Posted by: Exmoorjane on 17th Dec 2008 at 04:48PM

Suffolkmum's Avatar I agree too Kitty, though I'm smug and lucky that our school always does a traditional nativity, most costumes are along the tea towel lines but the teachers and a couple of clever Mums make the more complicated stuff - all very homespun though. James has run the gamut of shepherd, king and inkeeper, and Katherine no doubt will be stuck with being a sheep or an angle until the blessed day arrives when she might be old enough to be Mary. We did have a dodgy year in year 2 when they were clearly stuck for roles for all the children, and my boy was ... wait for it .... a piece of (blue) tinsel.

Posted by: Suffolkmum on 17th Dec 2008 at 05:08PM

Salle de Bain's Avatar Love it Jane...hilarious!!

It's a long time since my daughter was in nativity plays..but how I loved it!.

We lived on Bodmin Moor where money was tight at that time. However, we did have easy access to REAL cows, donkeys and sheep (who often demonstrated a whoopsie up the aisle in true Blue Peter style).

When times are tight, I think the costumes are more imaginative and appropriate in many designer/ready-made headgear in Bethlehem I'll warrant....especially with those exorbitant taxes!!

The church is desperate these days to move with the times in order to encourage the next generation in through the doors.
I guess there's a balance to be found there somewhere (e.g. HSM type productions), but I'll always be a traditionalist. Leaving our big old Cornish granite church on a crisp frosty December evening, children giggling and skipping over to the village hall (left over WW11 nissan hut), totaly euphoric because their roles had been completed successfully, is a priceless memory for me. On the way to the party at the hall, they would all drop into the village old peoples home, and give them an action replay, but in a much more light hearted way.

Then it was onwards again to enjoy mince pies, mulled wine and music.

We rehearsed for weeks beforehand....and frankly, making the costumes was the best part for me. Us Mums would all meet up once a week, to plan, cut, sew and drink was great!!!!

Posted by: Salle de Bain on 17th Dec 2008 at 05:32PM

Mountainear's Avatar We passed the local primary school yesterday and the entire school, infants and juniors were in a long crocodile waiting to cross the road on the way to 'perform' their Nativity in the church. All the infants I think were dressed as shepherds judging by the number of tea-towelled little heads - there can't have a dried pot in Welshpool. Lovely.

Posted by: Mountainear on 17th Dec 2008 at 05:33PM

Milla's Avatar had ours yesterday (and again tonight). Fins is Herod's guard and was told off today for getting the giggles on stage. SO UNFAIR! It was a) suppressed giggles which is always funny to everyone (and God knows i'm a harsh judge) and b) not his fault - T and some of the other children from Y7 had come back and were in the front row making faces at him. Ours is always nativity, but with a back story, in this case the, er 4 wise men trying to get to the baby, one always being late because he met up hard up cases and gave all his money away - to be met with the tear jerking moral that he might have missed Jesus proper but had met Him in principle in all the poor and needy he'd encountered en route. I always cry and wish I were a nicer person. All the children sing all the songs, stuffed round the corners of the hall with batches taking it into turns - Herod nad his cohorts, random poor people, etc, to be on stage for short times. Camcorders banished to the back. More tea towels than you'd need running a b&b. All thoroughly ungrand and good natured. Still feel I peaked, dramatically, being the proudest Mary of all time aged 4 (so important at an all girls' school not to be Joseph, poor Nichola Shepherd was branded as a bloke even then). Life's been pretty much downhill since then!

Posted by: Milla on 17th Dec 2008 at 05:36PM

Ivy's Avatar Funny how you all seem to remember tea towels in nativity plays here it rather would have been, what ever could be found in granny's laundry basket or old disused sheets torn up,but never tea towels . Funny

Posted by: Ivy on 17th Dec 2008 at 06:08PM

Milla's Avatar without question, and unquestioningly, tea towels all the way!

Posted by: Milla on 17th Dec 2008 at 06:34PM

Preseli Mags's Avatar Tea towels here too... .except for the year we did a panto (Aladdin?) and I was a washer woman. I had to hold up a pair of my grandmother's knickers (the sort with legs). We all thought it was funny, but when she came to see it she was livid!

Posted by: Preseli Mags on 17th Dec 2008 at 06:46PM

Faith's Avatar Nowadays tea towels have such funny things on them that most mums would be pushed to find a plain or stripy one. Bought a tea towel yesterday with Ladybird's Peter and Jane on - well just Jane actually 'It is time to dry up. I like drying up!'

I remember when Em was little and run out of play school all excited because she was in the Christmas play. 'I'm going to be a cornflake!!!!' She meant a snowflake and my father teased her for years about it!

Posted by: Faith on 17th Dec 2008 at 07:18PM

Elizabethm's Avatar I loved nativity plays - the full works, angel wings, teatowels and all. Elder daughter was an intensely serious Mary at about five, tiny tip of tongue showing how hard she was concentrating on not dropping the baby.

Posted by: Elizabethm on 17th Dec 2008 at 07:20PM

KittyB's Avatar Very funny stories there, and glad everyone is nostalgic for the good ole days too. Also heartwarming to see plenty of tea towels still in use.

Milla, H is Herod's guard too this year. And the funny poem from his book that I read to him on the night of the play was, appropriately enough, called Herod's Henchman, I may type it up in the poetry corner (we DO have one, don't we?). H and O had home-made costumes (by me, ahem, modest blush) to the letter of the school's intrusctions, and the other two had shop-bought Crusader type things with St George's flag on them.

The children sang the medley of songs to the dinnerladies and us Govenors present at the Christmas lunch today, and it was so much better without the Bontempi organ and the microphones, bless.

Posted by: KittyB on 17th Dec 2008 at 08:02PM

Tattie Weasle's Avatar I rtemember being a lamb in Canada but that was teh sum total of my Nativity plays -as for The Boy he's proessing and now is no longer an animal, he was a traveller on the way to Bethlehem - with tea towel that kept fallling over his eyes!!! Wish I had seen it - had to work but told he was a very enthusiastic travellerSmile Looking forward to the DVD...

Posted by: Tattie Weasle on 17th Dec 2008 at 08:07PM

Always tea towels and don't forget those old fashioned itchy wool dressing gowns for the shepherds.

Posted by: @themill on 17th Dec 2008 at 08:39PM

Westerwitch's Avatar She will hate me for saying those - but then she baits me so much these days - but Wildchild during an infant school nativity performance was so overcome with everyone watching her that she pulled her skirt up over her head and stayed like that throughout the show . . . Laughing loved it and love her and Robot Boy . . . not the same now they are at Uni.

Bring back innocence and the inevitable tea towels.

Posted by: Westerwitch on 17th Dec 2008 at 09:08PM

Withy Brook's Avatar All year 2's made their own crowns. Yr 1's wore wooly track suit bottoms and a T-shirt, but then had antlers and/or a father christmas hat on their heads, and tinsel round their midles. The antlers had been collected by a staff member at a party last year!! The dreaded hand-outs!
Older children had home made costumes. I'm sure there were tea towels about! Year 1 was the only lot who sang with rythm and every word could be heard. Year 2 and above sang in French and it was not nearly so clear, with a certain amount of drop-outs!

Posted by: Withy Brook on 17th Dec 2008 at 09:22PM

Bradan's Avatar With 3 sons plenty of shepherd and Joseph parts here and always with tea towels, oh yes and itchy wool dressing gowns atm, had forgotten those Very Happy Daughter has also done her fair share of playing angels, one year the 'heavenly host' all wore their 1st Communion dresses!

Posted by: Bradan on 17th Dec 2008 at 09:37PM

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