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100 years ago: Christmas tableaux

15 January 2021

January 14th, 1921.

WE HAVE this year received accounts of a very large number of Bethlehem tableaux and “mystery” plays. Many of these latter have been performed in church — a thing unheard of a few years ago. We do not doubt the edifying nature of a large proportion of such performances, though some of them may be open to criticism. In parishes such as that of St Silas-the-Martyr, Kentish Town, where the plays have proceeded out of a proper understanding of their purpose and limitations, and form part of a complete cycle of teaching and devotion, they fall naturally into place. When, however, the tendency is to regard them as an annual justification of religious amateur theatricals, it is not unreasonable to point out that the austerer truths of our religion should be given no less vivid expression. The Franciscan devotion of the Stations of the Cross provides a means of teaching the story of the Cross that has precisely as much to be said for it, or against it, as has the Franciscan devotion of the Crib. The taking of the one and the rejecting of the other may induce a false sense of proportion. So, too, if the prettiness of Christmas plays is not balanced by, let us say, the observances of Good Friday, harm rather than good may result.


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