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Nativity plays decline as sprouts supplant angels

05 December 2014

by a staff reporter


Traditional wonder: (left to right) Rhiannon Davidson, Arron Hazlewood and Lucy Bell, from St John's, C of E Academy, Darlington, play the three kings in The Christmas Journey, a production staged at St John's, Darlington, in December, 2013

Traditional wonder: (left to right) Rhiannon Davidson, Arron Hazlewood and Lucy Bell, from St John's, C of E Academy, Darlington,...

ONLY one third of primary schools now hold traditional nativity plays, a survey of parents suggests. And children are more likely to be cast as aliens, fairies, pumpkins, and sprouts than Mary or Joseph. They are more likely to sing Christmas-themed songs than carols.

About 2000 users of the parenting website Netmums reported their experiences of school Christmas plays. Two-thirds were unhappy that their child's school had stopped holding a traditional nativity play.

Only one in five felt that the nativity was "unimportant". A further 13 per cent said that they would teach their child the Christmas story at home.

The survey found that most schools now preferred to hold a "winter celebration", "seasonal play", or end-of-term concert instead of a traditional nativity play.

"New, modern Christmas plays have a whole host of characters," according to the Netmums' website, "so that, instead of shepherds and angels, children are just as likely to be cast as aliens, recycling bins, a Sir Alan Sugar-style 'Lord Christmas', punk fairies, Elvis, footballers, a lobster, a napkin, carrots, sprouts, and a drunken spaceman."

The co-founder of Netmums, Siobhan Freegard, said: "While the UK is a diverse and multicultural society, and it's right children learn about all religions and cultures, many parents feel the traditional nativity is being pushed aside.

"It seems wrong to bombard kids with commercial messages about presents and Santa without them realising the true meaning of the celebration.

"This study shows [that] many parents who aren't religious look to the nativity as a comforting part of the Christmas celebrations, and want their school to embrace and celebrate it rather than make up a version with perhaps less resonance for kids.

"Christmas is about peace, acceptance, and tolerance; so let's see more schools accept back this tradition."

Dr Don Horrocks of the Evangelical Alliance said: "This is either extreme political correctness or, perhaps, it reflects a nation too embarrassed to face up to its Christian heritage and the radical message of the Christmas story.

"Whatever the motive, it does a huge disservice not least to the younger generation who are being misled regarding their spiritual heritage and culture, and causing them to miss out on the meaning and significance of the Christmas message."

Parents also admitted to feeling aggrieved that their child hadn't been given a bigger part in the play, and some said that they knew other parents who had pressed teachers for a better part. When it comes to taking photos, one in three parents had to sign a form promising not to post photos on social media.

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