Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Being Mary & Embarrassing Nativity Memories


For most Sunday school age girls, there is one honour which is much sought after and incredibly hard to come by. Taking on the role of Mary in the Christmas play is the church equivalent of acheiving Primadonna status in Swan Lake. It's the Holy Grail of the Nativity. A young girl can enjoy being a shining star dressed all in white or an angel adorned with a tinsel halo but really, we all want to be Mary.

I had the distinction of portraying Mary not only once, but three times. I concede that being a ministers' daughter no doubt helped the casting process along, but I'd like to think that it was my earnest portrayal of a cow the previous year that boosted my profile and earnt me the role of Mary. 

I was swathed in a blue sheet and tried to look sufficiently meek and mild while the mischievous shepherds played with their tamagotchies behind the cardboard stable. At fifteen, I returned to a previous church for an encore as Mary. To the surprise of the back row, I produced a pregnancy bump so convincing that one could hear audible gasps as I made my entrance! And finally, when I was eighteen, I acted alongside my brother (as my husband Joseph) and I don't think either of us particulary want to dwell on this awkward event. So, moving on swiftly...



Minimalist Nativity: credit


Any smugness that I may harbour about being Mary is soon expunged by the recollection of a particularly embarrassing Nativity. What happened in that church hall eighteen years ago still haunts me to this day. And it is a fear we all share. 

But first, a little context to set the scene. 

At the age of seven, I was already quite an awkward-looking child. I was a combination of spindly legs and unkempt hair, all bundled into an overly large uniform that I'd been told I would 'grow into.' Despite this, I was a confident youngster and so, as part of the church singing group, I was often a soloist on Sundays and for special events. 

In this particular year, I'd been asked to sing a solo for the Children's carol concert. Halfway through the service, I climbed onto the stage in front of a full hall of children and parents. Thankfully, their faces melted into a big blur once I was under the bright spot light and so I wasn't particularly nervous. I'd done it before so it wasn't a big deal. 

The music started and I began to sing a popular Sunday school song from back in the day called , 'I'm Special.' I was halfway through the rendition when suddenly my eyes began to bulge and my nostrils flared at the horrific realization that I had no idea which words were coming next! After what felt like an eternity of being frozen on stage, the kind pianist began to sing along with me and eventually I found my way back to something half resembling a melody. Red-faced and traumatised, I scuttled off the stage as soon as it was over and buried my head into my tambourine ribbons!  

★  ★  ★

Having shared my Nativity ups and downs and, I might add, feeling much better for doing so, I'd love to hear about your Nativity Experiences, both the good and the disastrous! 


Which characters did you portray and who did you secretly want to portray? 
Were there any embarrassing moments during your school or church productions? 


Upcoming post: 'The Nativity Through Art History' - An investigation into the paradoxical blue of Mary's iconic veil and a revelation about Art History's unjust treatment of Joseph.

Updated Post: A Muslim Celebrating Christmas? 

13 comments:

  1. This is lovely and so sincerely written.Think the 'kind pianist' might have been me, Sarah. Whenever we sing 'I'm Special' I always think of you! This year my 3 year old granddaughter has her debut as 'Mary' for our YP Carol Service.

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  2. I didn't get to be Mary, they gave it to another girl because she would cry if she wasn't given the part. A harsh lesson about life was learnt!

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  3. I was either too old, in the wrong church or the wrong gender ... I was never in a Nativity play

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    1. Julian, I think you're in the perfect position now to orchestrate an interfaith Nativity play so that you can play Joseph or a wise man and I would fully support this endeavour!

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  4. I was the narrator. Yes that is a real part!!! I think I was always too much of a tomboy to be consider a suitable Mary or angel :(

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    1. I completely agree Charlotte, the narrator has the tricky job of pulling everything together (often prompting everyone else!) and the difficult task of trying not to sound really boring. I salute you!

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  5. I wait with muchn excitement to read 'The Nativity through Time' ! x

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    1. You might have already had a spoiler a few years ago!

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  6. I never was Mary. I was thinking I had only ever been a shepherd but then I remembered--once, I was a Wise Man.

    I was singing O Holy Night when the words completely left my brain. The pianist just kept on playing those arpeggios until I ducked behind the curtain where she was and looking at the music, finished the song.

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    1. I can see you in the role of a shepherd - have you ever considered getting some sheep as companions for Bob & Leeloo?

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  7. I think it's quite normal for a child to freeze when on stage in front of so many people, but the embarrassment never goes away. Can I share a memory although it isn't about a nativity?

    At the age of 9 I remember being chosen to be a presenter for a school concert. I was doing well until I forgot about the teacher's last minute change in the concert and so I introduced the wrong group.

    My co-presenter, also 9, tried to fix my mistake, but he panicked and swore, thinking it was under his breath, but it boomed into the audience. From time to time the memory resurfaces and I remember the embarrassment I felt for messing up!

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  8. Wonderful memories...made me smile. I do say, we (my girls and I) also talk about past concerts they had at school or church. I think I play an angel in grade 4 or 5...can't say which year for sure. My youngest daughter was a shepherd in the last concert we ever did.

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