Nativity plays; Christmas carols being sung, children dressed as Mary, Joseph, the three wise men and Elvis Presley?
This is the newest craze in nativity plays across the UK according to Netmums, a parenting website.
Schools are being put under pressure to update the story of Christmas and Jesus Christ. An ever-growing multinational and multi-religious nation is creating the demand for religious characters to be removed from the nativity story and new, more recognisable characters, such as spacemen and Elvis Presley, to be thrown into the mix.
In some cases, it is no longer called a ‘Nativity play’ but renamed to ‘’Winter Celebration’ ‘Seasonal Play’ or ‘End of Year Concert’’ according to the website.
But does this mean that the UK is losing its cultural identity? Should the story of the birth of Jesus be told throughout schools anymore?
The change in Nativity plays has caused outrage for some parents. Who took to Netmums to voice their opinions.
Tracy S on Netmums says: “I think it’s absolutely disgusting that the official “nativity Christmas plays” are not being played out at various schools. It was one of the most exciting times of the year to be a part of this special occasion. Now they are bringing in football and aliens as a replacement which I’ve no idea what that has got to do with Christmas.”
Although it is being reported that the nativity play orchestration is on the decline, schools are feeling pressure from both sides. 65 per cent of parents whose school doesn’t hold a nativity play wish for one and there are also pressures to diversify religious education without it losing the meanings.
Photo courtesy of Nathan Jones
David Gilbert, Head of the Science Department at Grace Dieu Manor School, says: “I don’t have a problem with teachers being a bit more liberal with the story, including funny figures, ‘spacemen’ etc. as long as the story still retains the core Christian themes of the birth of Christ at its heart.”
He teaches at an independent Catholic school and religious education is an important aspect of its curriculum.
On whether schools should abandon Nativity plays, David Gilbert says: “You would find there being a lot more of an uproar if schools decided to water down or abolish religious education themed around other religious festivals, e.g. Diwali. If they were to be abandoned, we would be causing children to be less culturally aware of the beliefs behind Christmas, which are something they should have the right to know about.”
Jennifer Keown, Year 1 teacher, also faces these pressures. She says: “Our school believes it is important to have an inclusive environment where all beliefs and faiths are respected equally. So all children will learn about each other’s cultures and their traditions. Therefore, children should learn about the Christmas story as part of a well-rounded religious education.”
Although the debate of religious education in schools is one that is likely to never be resolved. It seems clear that schools are dealing with the pressures pushed onto them as best they can.
Even if a few quirky and comical characters may get added to the original story to jazz it up a little and maybe even make it more relatable. The story of the birth of Jesus Christ is still a prominent one.
Bryony K on Netmums says: “At the school my son is at, they don’t do a traditional nativity and I do think it’s disappointing, but my son does know the Christmas story and they sing Christmas songs.”
As long as the children enjoy it at the end of the day, who cares if Elvis makes the odd appearance at the birth of Christ. He was the king after all.
Feature photo courtesy of Peter C