Attending my fourth nativity of the season at Paint Pots this week, I have reflected on the difference between a performance and an event. In my opinion, the first implies a focus on presentation, the quality of content and delivery and a separation between performers and audience whereas the latter is an inclusive, communal experience that invites participation and does not worry about standards. It’s about taking part – the process, not the product. Both of these have their own benefits depending on what the aim is. When it comes to our youngest children, I find that the joy and fulfilment for all involved comes when everyone shares in the experience of creating moments together and when there is no worry about rigidly following a literal or metaphorical script. Any hiccups are an added dash of colour and charm. I love it that some children wander off or run to sit on their parents’ lap, that some carers come forward and join the nativity scene providing emotional and physical support for their child, that one autistic girl is free to celebrate the music in her own way with excited screams, encouraged to roam freely round the room and finally bursts out into a lusty rendition of ‘We wish you a merry Christmas’, as part of the group. I love the Portuguese Mary with the Turkish Joseph, the Indian, Pakistani and Polish wise men, the break-dancer dressed in combats, the Muslim and Hindu parents, proud of their children. I love that shy and confident boys and girls are equally applauded.
At a time of seeming national and international discord, this celebration of the richness of our diversity, inclusion, tolerance, peace and joy are encapsulated in our collective enjoyment as expressed through our children’s delight in inviting us into their little world to re-enact a traditional story together.
The colour, mess, noisiness, innocence and awe and wonder of our children has much to teach us about what we might have lost in transition to adulthood. How wonderful it is to take the opportunity to reclaim some of the delight of what it means to be human.
Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas