Is the traditional nativity play worth saving?

My first reaction on learning that only a third of primary schools now stage a traditional nativity play was to reach for the phrase “political correctness gone mad”.

After all, it must be because Left-wing teachers are worried about offending non-Christians.

One in 14 schools apparently doesn’t even use the word “Christmas” to describe the end-of-term production, preferring terms such as “Winter Celebration” or “Seasonal Play”.

Several of those parents surveyed by Netmums reported seeing pan-religious plays incorporating references to Eid, Hanukkah and Diwali.

But on reflection, it’s difficult to get too worked up about the decline of the nativity.

I say this as someone who, until this year, had four children at a Church of England primary school. My 11-year-old daughter’s first appearance as a shepherd was at nursery when she was three, so I’ve had to sit through the traditional Christmas story for eight years now.

Last year I had to go to two separate nativities because I helped set up a free school for four- to 11-year-olds in Hammersmith.

I can honestly say that if I went along to the West London Free School Primary this year and discovered the head had decided to stage a play called “Winterval in Mecca”, complete with five-year-old girls in burqas, I’d be pleasantly surprised.

Part of the problem with the traditional nativity is that you know exactly what’s going to happen.

I had to watch The Mousetrap for a second time when I was a theatre critic and it drove me half-mad with boredom. Watching the 10th production of the nativity is my idea of hell.

It doesn’t help that the performers are usually woefully under-rehearsed.

You can guarantee that at some point Joseph is going to forget his lines, prompting a stressed-out teacher to start hissing from the wings. Props are lost, pieces of scenery tumble into the audience, and the Three Kings often seem to be wandering in the desert for 60 days and 60 nights. Continue reading

Image: The Telegraph

Toby Young is an English journalist. He is best known as the author of How to Lose Friends and Alienate People.

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