Sunday 4 December 2016

How keeping the meaning of Christmas alive is simply a matter of child's play

Published 17/12/2015 | 02:30

'Ever since St Francis of Assisi said an outdoors Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve 1223 alongside a manger, complete with live animals, the nativity scene has been one of the most recognisable symbols of the season'. Picture: Christos Georghiou
'Ever since St Francis of Assisi said an outdoors Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve 1223 alongside a manger, complete with live animals, the nativity scene has been one of the most recognisable symbols of the season'. Picture: Christos Georghiou

The arrival of the Three Wise Men was signalled by an outbreak of belly dancing. Instead of hosannas for the baby Jesus, some of Bethlehem's villagers strummed air guitars, while a pair of angels risked losing their haloes during an exuberant jiving session. Let nobody say Irish schools are slow to update the nativity play.

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It remains a potent tale of great wonder: a fusion of compelling parable and cracking story. In the hands of six and seven-year-olds, as it was yesterday when I sat among the audience at a state primary school, it becomes something else, too. It is transformed into a link in the chain of ritual which connects us to previous generations. That notion of continuity, despite the turbulence of the recession years, is something to prize.

Most of us have acted in a nativity play similar to the one I watched in the Harold School in Glasthule, Co Dublin. Our lines were similar, our costumes not much different. Despite our gadgets and fast-paced lifestyles, the Christmas traditions remain relatively unchanged.

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