Nothing says “Merry Christmas” quite like an old-fashioned Christmas pageant, featuring small children dressed in their fathers’ bathrobes and wearing their mothers’ best towels on their heads.
Every other year, the upper grades are busy preparing for the spring musical, so the responsibility for the Christmas program falls to the lower grades. This year the teachers decided that we hadn’t had an old-fashion pageant (think a “Charlie Brown Christmas”) in a long time.
And what parent’s heart doesn’t glow when her child, resplendent in a magi’s attire, steps (or trips as the case may be) on stage? And as a bonus for the teachers, Christmas pageants are really easy to put together. The songs are ones that the children pretty much know by heart and the script is the best to be found, verses from the Bible. In our past programs, the preschoolers were the opening act. They would sing, very softly, and look cute as buttons. This year, however, one of the preschool teachers requested that the preschoolers be part of the actual program. They were feeling left out.
So she and I decided that since we would be having shepherds as part of the pageant, why not have the preschoolers be sheep? All they really had to do was walk in with the second grade shepherds and look as cute as buttons. Simplicity itself! What could go wrong? (OK, now it’s time for an aside here. You would think that after all my years of experience, I would know better than to ask that question.) Practice went smoothly throughout the month of December. The children sang like angels. We never did get to practice with all of the 33 preschool sheep. We have three separate preschool classes which are never at school at the same time. But again, all they had to do was walk down the aisle with a second-grader. What could go wrong?
Dec. 15 was the big night. Friends and family gathered in the church. The program opened with the third- and fourth-graders, dressed as carolers, singing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” Mary and Joseph took their places and were joined by first-grade stars who twinkled and shed gold glitter all over the place. The heavenly host of kindergarteners, with just a few haloes askew, joined in telling the Christmas story through songs and readings. The students began humming “O Come All Ye Faithful.” This was the cue for the shepherds and their sheep to enter.
As we were starting to hum the song a second time, I realized that I hadn’t caught any movement in my peripheral vision. I looked over my shoulder and saw that there were no sheep or shepherds coming down the aisle. I looked to the back of the church where the sheep and shepherds were supposed to be assembled only to see one of my colleagues shrug her shoulders and mouth “No sheep!” Thus began the marathon humming of “O Come All Ye Faithful.” I really wish the folks from Guinness World Book of Records had been there because I really think we may have had a shot at the record for the most consecutive humming of “O Come All Ye Faithful.” After a while to add a little variety we “aahed” some verses, then we “oohed” a verse or two. Frankly I was starting to run out of sounds! Besides that, the third- and fourth-grade carolers were beginning to perspire profusely under their hats, scarves and gloves.
At last I looked back and saw what appeared to be a giant cotton ball in the vestibule. The sheep had arrived. After a few more verses, (I would tell you how many, but I had long since lost count) they began their trek toward Bethlehem and we could finally sing the carol. I have no idea of how long the children had hummed, oohed, and aahed. It seemed like hours! Obviously we had severely underestimated the time it takes to herd a flock of preschoolers from the school to the back of church. Luckily the Three Kings had no such trouble traveling from the East! The program ended with our traditional rendition of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas!” This may have been our most memorable Christmas program. Perhaps my favorite part of the evening was when someone commented that this was the best organized pageant she had ever seen.
The citywide spelling bee was held on Dec. 16. Our school was represented by Isabelle Rammel and Carson Pope. Isabelle won third place and Carson fifth. Congratulations to both for representing our school so well.
On behalf of the staff and students at St. Mary’s School, I would like to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!