Thursday, December 9, 2010
Best Little Christmas Pageants
Imogene Herdman: I'm going to be Mary in the Christmas play. And if you try to be, or raise your arm, you'll wish you didn't.
Alice Wendlekin: I'm always Mary in the Christmas play.
Imogene Herdman: Go ahead then. And next spring when the pussy-willows come out, I'm going to stick a pussy-willow so far down your ear where nobody can reach it. And it'll sit there and grow and grow and grow so for the rest of your life, there'll be a pussy-willow bush growing out of your ear.
My husband is the staff sponsor for the Muslim Association at his school. He asked them once if they would be offended by a Christmas assembly. They looked at him like he was crazy. Of course not, they said. Go right ahead.
Last year, our daughter was Santa Claus for a third of a school play in which the Claus had developed amnesia about the true meaning of Christmas. Different classes of children tried to jog his memory with songs and dances. In the end, two children who decided to make the day meaningful for others reminded Santa that Christmas was about love and compassion.
Tonight I went to the smartest school Christmas event I had ever been to: we were each given a program with precise times on it. At those designated times, classes came on stage and sang a song. My son sang Dona Nobis Pacem as a canon with his class. Some chairs were set up, but many people came and went between songs. The rest of the school was set up as an Open House. There was face painting, a family literacy centre where you could write letters to Santa or follow a writing prompt about Christmas. There was a room in which I was nearly dragged into learning how to mambo with Santa. One could learn origami, learn about celebrations around the world, do a variety of Christmas crafts and songs. Students organized a coffeehouse with donated hot drinks and cookies, with all proceeds going to support education in Pakistan. Mittens and hats were collected for cold fingers and heads in the community. People of all faiths and nationalities came together to have fun as families as a school family. It was creative and compassionate. The teachers could participate as they chose: no one got stressed out, except possibly the music teacher, but I suspect stress is a requirement in a music teacher's contract.
I've been in a few Christmas pageants. I remember dying to be Mary as a child in the Presbyterian Church, but Fiona Yeudall always got to be her. (I did not threaten her.) I have no idea what I got to be though. Maybe a shepherd. I did get to sing a solo in verse 2 or 3 on Christmas Eve when our junior choir sang See Amid the Winter Snow. One of the first years we were married,we helped out in a Nativity Tableau in my uncle's church which was held in a wedding chapel in Burlington. I played the piano. My dad and my husband got to be shepherds. They came in pretty early and had to stay kneeling on bended knee for a long time. I knew my husband was close to losing it when he started turning the stuffed sheep's head around to gawk at the audience.
I have been to some very very dead Holiday Evenings where political correctness drowned out spirit more than Scrooge ever could have. I've also been to evenings I've loved, where the door is opened wide so that all faiths and their music are welcomed.
But, while I believe in the Christ of Christmas and the story is still filled with wonder and truth and joy for me - Fear not. Glory to God in the highest - it's just I'm not sure it's always the most religious pageants that have the most sense of what the first Christmas was really about. That Christmas was a time when God came to be with us and showed up to the most unlikely people in the most difficult conditions in a way that they were able to respond with incredulous joy
Ralph Herdman: What did she says the play is called?
Leroy Herdman: "Christmas Pageant."
Ollie Herdman: That's no name. That's what it is.
Gladys Herdman: I know a name. I'd call it "Revenge at Bethlehem."