The Primary Days: The Dreaded Christmas Nativity

12/12/2012 16:16 | Updated 22 May 2015
The Primary Days: The dreaded Christmas nativityAlamy

My good friend Jane recently told me that she had been 'genuinely torn' by the choice between attending her child's nativity play and her best friend's hen party at a local spa.

"Well obviously I had to choose the nativity. I couldn't bear to miss out on Grace playing the part of an apple tree, but between you and me, it was a tough call!" she confessed.

In an attempt to be polite, I managed to keep from spluttering in disbelief all over Jane's face. But if it had been me, I would have headed off to the spa like a shot. I would dearly love to have an excuse not to go to another one of these things, ever again.

And I'm wondering whether I have somehow failed as a parent for not jumping up and down with excitement like Jane.

In the lead-up to the first nativity that I was involved in as a mother, I really went all out to make a good impression. It was when my six-year-old, Betty, was at pre-school, and she was cast as Mary.

This was a particularly proud moment for me because when I was a child I had always played some static, non-speaking item of scenery.

However, although thrilled at my daughter being cast as Mary, I was in turmoil about putting her outfit together. I absolutely refuse to buy ready-made shop bought outfits for a school play, so I fashioned something together using an old sheet and fake pashmina scarf. But I agonised over whether I had used the right shade of blue, and was completely put off my stride when my husband told me that Betty looked like a nun.

The play itself went off OK, but I found that the amount of enjoyment Betty and I got out of it nowhere near justified the amount of effort and heartache that had gone into it. I put it down to experience, but the next year was even worse.

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I suddenly realised the uncomfortable truth that nativity plays are completely dismal experiences.

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And a few years on, I am growing very weary of the whole nativity thing. Last year I had a cow and an angel to dress, and this year I have a shepherd and a goose.

In my head I've composed a really strong letter to the school suggesting they establish their own costume reserves.

But of course, it's not just the costume preparation that gets me down. There's also the peer emotional pressure to enjoy the whole thing; the cold community hall; the tears backstage; the tears onstage; harassed teachers nervously eyeing the dilapidated stage props; my daughter wondering what she's doing on stage in a goose costume; the ranks of video cameras capturing out-of-focus footage of a plastic baby in a box; tired and unshushable younger siblings running around crying and chewing the moth-eaten stage curtains; dodgy modern songs that no one can sing along with; all rounded off by dry mince pies and strained small talk with faux-cheerful parents.

Dolly, my three-year-old, was mildly ill last year so I didn't go to Betty's nativity. In fact Betty was desperate not to go to her own nativity, and wanted to stay at home and help me look after her ill sister. But my husband begrudgingly dragged her along anyway.

This year I really don't have an excuse - at the moment at least - though the thought has crossed my mind that I could paint red dots all over Dolly's face. In the meantime I'm sitting here sewing sequins onto Betty's goose costume, and praying for a deluge of snow.

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