Note 4: The Nativity Play
Were you ever Mary? You'd probably remember if you were. All those children gathered round looking on with envy as wise men and shepherds lay gifts at your feet, the tallest boy in the class rests his arm on your shoulder and you get to sit really, really close to the baby doll.
Yasmin Alibhai Brown wrote in the Independent this week that, unless you had flaxen hair and fair skin as a child, you probably didn't get a plum role like Mary and Joseph. You were more likely to be the second innkeeper or the back end of a donkey. And the more I think about the various nativity plays I've watched over the years, the more I think Yasmin is right. As lovely as all the Marys have been, I can't think of one that was a non-blonde, which I should have thought, for a Galilean Jew, was quite unusual. I might also observe grumpily, that like a bride at her wedding, Mary is generally mute and it's down to Jo to confidently make the hotel arrangements.
And perhaps there is a problem with primary schools in December. Mary, Angel Gabriel and the Narrators have a month of centre stage and glorification. Plenty of other children sit bored round the edges, grateful only that spelling and numeracy appear to have been forgotten for the time being. I always have a quiet admiration for the bored, disinterested children in school plays. There is a hint of stubborn rebellion in their yawns and infernal fiddling.
And, I only recently found out, many of the boys feel acute horror at wearing a dress. It genuinely never occurred to me that four and five year old boys would be upset by their biblical tunics. In our school it wasn't so bad for the reception class who put on the Nativity. But the whole of my daughter's class was cast as the "Night Sky" and girls and boys alike were allocated a long navy silk "tunic" and a sequinned blue bolero. My daughter couldn't believe her luck. Many of the boys came in that morning in tears.
Yet, however you're cast, the Nativity Play is an abiding memory for most of us. I admire wholeheartedly the attempts of brave primary schools trying to do something a little different, but it's difficult to beat the tears and tea towels of the traditional Nativity.
Note 5: The Christmas Bookshelf
One of our family's favourite Christmas books, The Nativity Play, captures its subject to perfection.* Tracy, the angel, feels beautiful in her sheet and halo but wonders why she doesn't have a magic wand. The other angels torture their audience with their recorders. One of the shepherds waves at his Dad. It's a subtly witty little picture book that young children will love and identify with at this time of year.
This year we have found another Nativity bedtime treat in Nicholas Allen's Jesus' Christmas Party, the story of a grumpy Innkeeper struggling to sleep as a parade of visitors, a blinding light and an exulting angelic chorus descend on his outhouse. Nicholas Allen wrote almost all of my children's favourite books which, with titles like Father Christmas Needs a Wee, The Queen's Knickers and Cinderella's Bum, may say something about my children.
Note 6: Our retro Western Kerchiefs
Whatever happened to the Cowboy Carol? It was the hands down favourite when I was at school and even had the back end of the donkey joining in. Our "Wild Horses" and "Coyote" kerchiefs are the perfect stocking fillers for spirited cowboys and little girls who are bored of mermaids and princesses. Illustrated, printed and hand sewn in Great Britain, they feature quirky, perfectly vintage designs by children's book illustrator, Marion Lindsay. You have until midnight tomorrow (Wednesday, 11 December) to get 15% off any of our Kerchiefs (and with free P&P on all UK orders until Christmas). When shopping, use the discount code "Kerchief15" to grab your Christmassy discount.
Photo credits: Nativity cartoon by www.rostonrobertson.co.uk