Back in the 70’s me and my big bro’ never participated in all of that nativity biblical re-enactment stuff.
This could explain a lot of things for me and mine. Like the fact that as a small child I hated those new-fangled advent calendars that came with crappy choccies behind their little doors. The ones that didn’t possess the ‘Jesus in the stable’ theme. Nativity was a rare story for us – not something to be trotted out, year on year.
And this might explain the fact that last year I felt the need to buy my mother a book on the Gnostic Gospels for Xmas (she looked at me as if to say ‘the usual packet of American Tan tights would have suited me just fine, love…’) And manger-deprivation may even tell us why my brother converted to Islam over twenty years ago (hey- sorry Our Kid, but I put it to thee that this lack of nativity-ing year in and out at school could have played a key influence on you too. Just don’t tell the BNP about this, alright? Or they’ll be calling for the government to enforce nativity plays across the UK as a cunning new anti-terrorist measure designed to rid our country of pesky muslims like you and your own wee family…)
So no. East Manchester 1970s. We didn’t get to prance about with teatowels on our heads. Or shout ‘THERE’S NO ROOM HERE’ at the audience (although come to think of it – I do remember hearing about a rather snotty-nosed little lad, many years older than me who was born into shed loads of dosh and who attended public school…went by the name of Nigel Farage. Apparently always insisted on playing that Innkeeper role…)
Nah. The Three Wise Persons and all of that, were not a year in year out feature of our fledgling children-led productions. But this wasn’t because of a deliberate policy on our part. We didn’t opt-out of the nativity-ritual because of any particular religious preferences. And it wasn’t because we were home schooled or anything like that (I can hear my Ma laughing like a drain at the thought of that one…) Neither was our lack of over-familiarity with shepherds and angel throngs because we lived anywhere particularly exotic, where other more foreign cultures predominated (I mean – hello? I’m born n’ bred East Manchester. Eating sausage rolls on a Friday tea time instead of fish n’ chips was tantamount to pledging allegiance to Kaiser Bill himself.)
Nope. The lack of a stable and a star was simply because we grew up in your 70’s poor, urban area where Labour authorities prevailed. This was a place where schools were encouraged to try and be a tad bit more creative and a bit more experimental. So we had … a Festive Tarka The Otter production. The French Xmas with Naughty Rudolph Who Swindles the Elves Show. David and Goliath (straight up. No funny or homo-erotica business, mind.) The Jungle Book. Pinocchio. Peter Pan. Oliver Twist. Proper Dickens’ style, mind. Today’s Disney-overkill or Pixar-mainstream gubbins simply did not exist back then. And finally… I remember clearly some weird Icelandic saga where I had to play the part of a boy (again.)
I’m glad about this. The bit about the lack of nativitying I mean. (Although playing the part of a boy was something that I also appreciate. It has helped me understand my own testosterone surges a little bit better.) And I’m grateful that I spent the first couple of years with a firstborn in Namibia. Where come December time anyone who can rub a couple of Rand together, buggers off to the seaside in order to avoid the blistering heat. Where talking about a chubby guy with enormous white beard who dons a sweaty red suit in the midst of this ice-cold ‘snow’ thing which no one has ever seen … just seemed downright stupid. And where talk of the traditional nativity performance just never – in four years that we lived there – seemed to hold anything like the sway that it recently has cottoned onto in the UK.
A few people. Call them cynics if you like – have identified this uniform need to ‘do a nativity’ in schools with the growing adoption of USA customs and traditions (such as Halloween Trick or Treating…themed kiddy parties….and hell – even Black Friday Sales!) Such people are rather terrified that we might soon be quaffing dead turkeys TWICE in the space of a few weeks and thanking the Lord that we got shot of the Royal Family and all things lovely and UK-ish. (Not me! I’d never say that kind of thing!)
So I won’t be commenting on that in this post. All that I want to say is that … Quite frankly – I find the whole nativity thing to be Ultra Dull.
Not because of the kids. The kids always carry the shows don’t they? Regardless of content. But I’m bored with the story. With the traditional way that it’s told. I want a fast-forward version… where the plastic dolly-Jesus suddenly morphs into JC aged 33 and he starts chucking over tables and chairs and foaming at the mouth about the excesses of our evil western Christmas pressie-culture.
I want a bit of controversy.
Which is why I was glad when I heard that – at last – my own very funnylad has a part in HIS school nativity! Excellent. Here’s a real chance for some thrills n’ spills and irreverancies (hope to Gawd that his teacher isn’t reading this.) And this latest development has also provided me yet again, with an interesting insight into the differences between the boy and the girl. I recalled a conversation with my daughter when she was 6 years old (the same age as the lad is now). It went like this:
DAUGHTER: It’s so not fair! I never get to be Mary!
ME: Who cares? You’re the Angel Gabriel! This entire nativity that you’re doing with school … the way that the teachers have written it… it’s all about the Angel Gabriel.
D: But I’m never Mary. It’s always the same girl who is Mary. Because she looks like a Mary. Why don’t I look like a Mary? It’s not fair!
ME: But you have the big song – all on your own! They’re even putting you high up in the church pulpit so that you pop up and surprise everyone with your performance! With a massive golden star! And a host of other little angels behind you! You’re… the leader!
D: But if you’re Mary you get to wear a blue dress and everything. And to be the mother of God. And I’m just like… some servant. Oh. You don’t understand.
(SEE YOUTUBE LINK below – evidence of her lack of Mary-ness)
Now. Compare this with the conversation of the other day with my 6 yr old lad:
SON: Ha! This is soooo coo-wul! I can’t believe they’re letting me be the donkey! It’s soooo coo-wul!
ME: I know! Well done.
SON: It’s ’cause I’m so brill at my HEEE-HAAAW! Everyone laughs! I’ve been doing it all day! HEEE-HAAAW
ME: Yes – it is a good one. Good braying there.
SON: All the teachers keep laughing and then they have to say – ‘okay now, let’s stop it with the HEE-HAAAAWs for a bit!’
ME: Yeah. I bet they do.
SON: Because the more I HEEE-HAAAW the more Mary might fall off me. An’ it’s even better’n what I thought actually! Being the donkey. ‘Cause one of the other boys – one of my best friends – plays a snowman!
ME: A snowman? In a nativity?
SON: Yeah! And it’s well funny, ’cause I have to bite his nose off.
SON: ‘Cause it’s a carrot an’ that. An’ I was thinking that it might be even funnier if I put my leg up…to the side. Like a doggy – you know like when they’re weeing? An’ pretend to wee all over the snowman!
ME: No. I wouldn’t do that if I were you.
SON: (thinking) Yeah. Maybe not. Mary would fall off me again.
And there we have it. So much as I prefer a bit of a shake-up in terms of Christmas performance material for kids, the good old-fashioned nativity has reminded me of the differences between boy and girl. Or perhaps just this particular boy and girl. Nothing other than the dizzy heights of headline billing (and birthing God Himself) will ever be good enough for my daughter.
Whereas my lad’s aspirations are to be the humblest of creatures. And to widdle over inanimate objects for a cheap laugh.
You tube link below demonstrates my lad’s ambition. Over 3 years ago he was already employing Method Acting in order to prepare for his great moment. Note nappy and donkey costume. And tantrum, squealing and shoe being thrown at his sister. These artistic sorts always have a temper….