The highlight of my school career was my singing solo as a little lamb, aged 10, in the school nativity show.
Four lines to sing about the Baby Jesus wearing a pair of white woolly tights and a white jumper that didn’t quite come over my bum. And a lamb mask on my head.
My parents must have been so proud.
I never reached the dizzying heights of playing Mary, but I had a couple of years of being an angel with my tinsel halo upon my head.
A rite of passage growing up. The stories about the time you were a shepherd, a king, an angel. Those favoured ones who were Mary and Joseph. The doll in place of the Baby Jesus.
Something which my five year old knows nothing about.
Living in the Middle East where Christmas isn’t celebrated by all, where Islam is practised, my son knows nothing of the Nativity Story.
He can tell you about Islam, about Ramadan and Eid, he knows what the call to prayer sounds like. Ask him about the Christmas story and he will look at you blankly.
The Winter Wonderland Workshop
This week we went into his school for a Winter Workshop that was so cute I couldn’t get over it.
Yet the difference to my childhood was glaring.
“Little snowflake” was the performance over “Away in a Manger”.
We did crafts with jolly snowmen and cotton wool penguins instead of drawing big portly Santa’s with a bellyful of mince pies.
It was lovely, it was magical.
Yet it wasn’t Christmas
Not as I know it, not as my husband experienced.
So with that in mind I set out to teach him all about the Nativity.
The long journey to Bethlehem, I may even have sang a few lines of Little Donkey to reinforce just how long it was. How poor Mary and Joseph couldn’t find a place to stay. I fielded questions of what was an Inn, why was there no room, could they not go to a hotel.
We talked about the brightest star in the sky and how, after the baby was born, the shepherds arriving to visit the Baby Jesus, three Kings visiting bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Again, fielding questions of what were these things, why did a baby need them, where did they come from, why did they all want to see the baby.
And yet, it’s still not quite sunk in for him.
He doesn’t really understand why everyone wants to see a Baby Cheeses or indeed what a Baby Cheeses even is.
His childhood isn’t one of Christmas Nativity plays, of Christmas Carols, Christmas light switch ons. There are no big Christmas displays in the shops. No Christmas Fayres or Santa’s Grottos.
Yet it is still magical. We still do the Christmassy things.
He might not know of the Christmas story, but there’s time for him to learn. The magical displays in the windows may not yet enthral him. The Christmas Carols that so delight me are yet unheard to his ears.
His Christmas is not one that I would recognise from when I was a child.
But the magic is still there.
The wonder, the excitement, the build up.
His advent calendar is excitedly taken down each day, the letter to Santa burnt and sent to the North Pole by magic fire.
Christmas in the Middle East may be different to what I ever experienced, but it’s no less magic.