It’s this time of the year again that many children will be asked to take part in the yearly school Nativity play. Many tears will be shed over the fact that they cannot play Joseph or Maria. Many proud parents will have to show up at school to watch their children act, with of course the need for photos and videos. Most of us will still have the evidence laying around from their own childhood play and probably most of us would like to forget it!
The nativity play or scene is a re-enactment of the birth of Jesus. The scene will always include baby Jesus, with mother Mary and father Joseph, but many other characters come and go depending on the space available. Most scenes will include shepherds with livestock like sheep, an ox and a donkey, three wise men with camels and often an angel overlooking the barn.
Nativity scenes come in all shapes and sizes. When I was young my mother had made our own nativity scene from clay. In later years this was replaced by small Peruvian statues. Often they would stand proudly underneath the Christmas tree as we did not have the traditional gifts like in the United Kingdom.
In our local village the craftsmen created a gorgeous life-size nativity scene for the church. The statues are made of a wooden frame work, with clay hands and heads.
The clothes were made by the local seamstresses whilst a local carpenter made the shed from wood gathered from a nearby forest. It takes a large team of volunteers every year to first build a new barn, then move all the statues from the attic to the church and put them in the right place.
Over a period of a couple of weeks volunteers will be in the church so visitors can drop in and view the scene. In early January the team of volunteers than need a couple of days to store away the statues and remove the barn.
A couple of years ago I went to one of the big cathedrals where they had an absolutely enormous nativity display. A team of 35 volunteers worked for 3 months in the cathedral to put the display together. Every year the set up is different, but in general they use the same images. It is such an enormous display that you will need about half an hour to walk past it and than you will still have missed something.
There are many different traditions in relation to the nativity scene but most countries will have them in one way or another. I always enjoy the once that show the craftsmanship that has gone it and the love of volunteers to create the scenes.