One year it was decided by someone (who later refused to be identified) that during the annual Christmas pageant we ought to have a “real” manger scene – with live animals.
Somebody’s Dad built a nifty three-sided wooden creche, and some of the kids brought their 4-H animals. It was the wrong time of year for baby animals, so ewes and nanny goats had to stand in. Judy brought a couple of bunny rabbits in a pretty basket decorated with red bows, and Jimmy showed up with his pet chicken – a Rhode Island Red wearing a green bow.
Apparently, all angels are blonde girls. They get to wear neat costumes made from white sheets with wings sewed on the back. The best part is the golden halos over the tops of their heads. They learn words like, “Lo” and “good tidings” and say them even though they have no idea what they mean. The hard part is standing still and holding their arms up all that long time.
Dorothy has dark hair so she couldn’t be an angel. She felt better, though, when she got to be Mary. It was easy because Mary only sits still beside the cradle and doesn’t have to learn any new big words.
Dorothy’s cousin Lance was Joseph and the baby Jesus was a doll. Mary wore a scarf over her head and Joseph had on his Dad’s long pajama top tied with a piece of cotton rope.
The shepherds wore pretty much the same costume as Joseph, except they had all found a stick to hold because everyone knows shepherds carry sticks. A couple had their grandpas’ canes with curved tops.
The three Wise Men had golden crowns on their heads and glued-on beards and carried little tin boxes.
The parents and grandparents, besides being a great audience, served as the Heavenly Host and sang the songs we all love, beginning with “Away in a Manger.”
Lance (Joseph) got bored during the singing of “We Three Kings” while the wise men took up their positions. He kicked the cradle and, in a stage whisper heard by all, said, “Mary, the baby’s crying.” Dorothy (Mary) giggled and whispered back, “Quit that.”
Meanwhile, the nanny goat decided to eat the bows on the bunny basket. One of the bunnies got scared and jumped out – on top of the chicken, who squawked and flapped her wings, upsetting the sheep. Joey grabbed his old ewe’s halter, but she was too much for him. She landed smack on top of the cradle.
Some wiseacre in the audience said, “Now the baby’s really crying.”
Mary dug the doll out from under the sheep just before the cradle broke. The chicken flew out into the audience and the Wise Men dropped their boxes and grabbed the goats. The rabbits hid out under the shepherds’ long costumes.
We sang “Joy to the World” instead of the planned “Silent Night,” and everybody agreed it was the most memorable Christmas pageant ever. We haven’t done it that way since, though.
Glenda Price has been a contributing editor to New Mexico Stockman magazine since 1982. Contact her at email@example.com.