I have no evidence to back this up, but I am convinced that the most overacted, over-produced play in the world is the Christmas nativity play. It’s otherwise known as baby Jesus in a manger with Mary, Joseph, an angel (or several), three wise men and a smattering of animals and shepherds.
A large percentage of school-aged children in the Western world participate in some variation of this – and the Raging Bull is no exception. Being only three years old, it’s hard to get concrete details about the school’s Christmas performance. My interrogation only draws blank looks. Finally, after the third consecutive day of questioning, there is a breakthrough. I feel like a cop who’s finally secured the confession to a grisly murder.
The Raging Bull looks up at me earnestly and tells me that she’s going to be an angel. If she’s making this up, she has a future as a poker player – her eyes are the picture of innocence.
So when the English Husband and I traipse to her preschool on the day of the show, I was fully expecting to see her dressed up in a white sheet with an aluminum star adorning her head.
Guess my surprise when I realize that she’s not an angel, but a shepherd. I suppose they’re quite interchangeable. After all, they are both only there in the background and to kind of move the plot along.
Nevertheless, the Bull looks absolutely adorable in her get-up. Her composure lasts all of three minutes before our appearance sets off a flood of tears and stage fright. Another shepherd seems to be having some sort of breakdown as well, so I can’t hear anything that’s being said or acted. A few of the angels scream. It’s not Christmas, it’s chaos.
Everyone pulls out cameras/recording equipment. We mumble a few festive songs without much conviction and then the whole thing is over. Praise God, Amen.
Afterwards, there were mince pies and mulled wine. If you’re unfamiliar with mince pies, they are an essential part of any Christmas in the United Kingdom. Not many people seem to like them, yet they are sold in dozens of variations.
One of my first Decembers in this foreign country – a clueless, uncouth American – I was asked by colleagues in the office if I would like a mince pie. I politely declined. ‘I don’t eat meat,’ I told them. Turns out they aren’t savory/meat pies at all, but a sweet, fruit-filled, spicy pie (made with shortcut pastry) that’s usually sprinkled with sugar on top.
They are, to put it mildly, an acquired taste. If you don’t like a lot of raisins and orange peel in your desserts, give them a wide berth.
All the parents munched on the pies with very little gusto. The kids ended up with mini chocolate cupcakes. I did contemplate taking one of these cupcakes from the unsuspecting stars of the show, but the phrase ‘stealing from the mouths of babes’ stopped me. It’s Christmas after all. I might not feel so charitable in January.