Tyrades! The Ghost of Christmas Pageants Past
Indecipherable speech, missed cues, and wardrobe malfunctions abounded; but a wintry good time was had by all.
I'm speaking of son Gideon's first-grade Christmas pageant; but, come to think of it, I could probably go "green" and recycle that lead paragraph when reporting about a congressional junket to Jamaica.
Christmas pageants have changed a lot from the late Sixties when I was in elementary school. Technology has had a major impact. In the old days, every parent and grandparent could leave the assembly with the unshakeable conceit that their little cherub was the flawless star of the show. Now they leave the gym wheedling, "I'll pay you 50 bucks to destroy that &^%$ video."
Back in my day, after our debuts as thespians, we went back to playing with paper footballs. After Gideon became an actor, he immediately felt an urge to adopt multiple foreign orphans.
Way back when, we would ask "What's a sleigh?" when rehearsing carols. In these foreclosure--happy times, rehearsals of "I'll Be Home For Christmas" are met with "What's a home?"
Song choices come under so much more scrutiny nowadays. "Christmas Cookies and Holiday Hearts" was one of the main songs in Gideon's production. (Baker Gideon had the spoken line "Roll it with a rolling pin" elsewhere in the show.) Forty-five years ago, that would certainly have flown under Lady Bird Johnson's radar, but I'm waiting for First Lady Michelle Obama to bring in the feds. ("We need intravenous delivery of White House garden broccoli and beets. Stat! Or those kids will be too obese to get shot at in Afghanistan! Where's your holiday spirit?")
In my third-grade pageant, I delivered the "And it came to pass in those days that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus..." speech, and Angie Thomas sang "Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem." For whatever reason, Gideon's program was a decidedly secular celebration of Santa Claus, reindeer, elves and the like.
Granted, so much of a traditional Christmas pageant would be awkward nowadays, especially around my neck of the woods. For instance, The Wise Men would have to be renamed the College Boy Cultural Elite. (Did I mention that I'm from a red state?)
The reasons for steering away from Nativity scenes go beyond political correctness. Today's youth might shock their elders with their knowledge of the birds and bees. ("See, the virgin birth is such a big deal because normally...well, let me show you these graphics downloaded from Wikipedia...")
Some schools get away with blending the sacred and the profane, but you know how disconcerting that can be. You can have an Easter program as long as the scenes of the Passion of the Christ are blended with the Allman Brothers Band. ("Sometimes I feel, sometimes I feel, like I been tied to the whippin' post...") Nothing says Victory Over Death like audience members chowing down on chocolate eggs and yelling, "Freebird!"
Alas, a mere insertion of neutral cultural icons will not suffice. Someday multiculturalism will demand that other religious traditions be shoehorned into Christmas pageants. When the Christmas snow returns, Frosty will be reincarnated as a cow. Kids will sing about "'Round yon 72 virgins..." And memories of Mel Tormé will be evoked as youngsters croon "Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Volcano Dedicated To Our Vengeful South Pacific Fire God." *Sigh*
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