Having been a teacher for too long, I have seen many awful student performances. Many where either nerves or a gross overestimation of ability has led to those protracted silences that forces everyone in the audience to smile fixedly for the duration. You can see people desperately fighting the urge to look at their phone or check their watch for the fifth time in thirteen seconds.
As such, I approached the annual reenactment of the birth of Jesus with a heady mix of excitement at seeing my kids fumble their lines on stage and dread at having to watch other people’s kids fumble their lines on stage. Bad enunciation, tears and collective bladder control malfunctions were pretty much what I was expecting.
These conflicting emotions were reinforced by the unexpectedly lengthy lead up to show time.
My youngest had been learning his Christmas nativity songs from, it seems to me, mid-October. The memory of “I’m a Little Christmas Tree” sung with an angelic if slightly off-key and shaky voice will be etched upon my soul until the day I die.
The oldest has also been rehearsing his Christmas show although apart from him being cast as Sheep No. 2, he’d been fairly tightlipped about the whole affair. We’d ask him what songs he was singing and he’d grunt and shrug and say ‘dunno’. He’s four.
Every now and then, he’d forget he was supposed to be enigmatic and start singing “Clip clop, clip clop” and then hum tunelessly for a few bars before bellowing an enthusiastic “…all the way!”
I only knew a few of the songs that came home. Apparently they’ve got new ones. Surely the best bit of any carol/nativity is when everyone gets to loudly yell “now bring us some figgy pudding” or singing “While Shepherds Wash Their Socks By Night”. Not these days it seems. Now it’s all knowing euphemisms about testicles¹. Our society is so fixated on irony that even our nativity plays have the air of the hipster about them. I blame Derrida.
So as I sat at both of my children’s respective plays I was fully expecting to feel the boredom of waiting for the 3 seconds one of my offspring actually made it on stage. How wrong I was.
From the moment a small child dressed as an angel announced to Mary that she was up the duff and would probably have to have a bit of an awkward conversation with Joseph in the morning, I was enraptured. Awwing away whenever a snotty, teary youngling with whom I have no connection muttered ‘we followed a star’, clapping at every song they sang, cheering when they bowed at the end. It was so beautiful I even forgot to make glib comments to the wife.
And all the interminable singing at home was worth it. There was a sense of shared accomplishment from all the children who got up and did something most adults would struggle with. At least without some loss of bladder control.
It was delightful and made me feel that Christmas was actually here far more than any contrived advertising campaign. I left with a genuine sense of goodwill and contentedness that has seemed, at times, hard to find in 2018.
With that firmly in mind I’d like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous 2019.
Now bring me some figgy pudding!
¹ I’m a little Christmas tree tall and straight,
Here are my branches for you to decorate.
First you put the star on the very top,
Just be careful that my balls don’t drop