Monday, December 16, 2013

Nativity Troubles

french village diaries nativity religion school France
Ed's 'cut out and colour' nativity scene
I am not normally one to talk about religion as we got off to a bad start when I was younger and the main thing that comes to my mind when thinking of religion is conflict. Most wars I know of have a difference of religion somewhere in their conception and every Sunday was a war zone when I was growing up. I was the sulky, slouchy teen who was dragged to mass every Sunday with ‘that look’ on her face, right up until the weekend I turned 18. I don’t think it is a surprise that neither my brother or I married Catholics or even got married in a church. I have also yet to meet anyone who is impressed with my GCSE in religious studies, so I have no problem with religion having no place in French state schools.

However, this does mean Ed has no experience of a nativity play or carol singing, although I know not everyone gets to star in their school nativity play. If my memory serves me correctly the short, fat, dumpy kid never gets to play Mary, whereas long legged, slim and pretty Lisa and Lara were always the stars at our primary school. At least being educated in France we have saved Ed from the trauma of nativity play disappointment. No nativity play also means there is no need for French parents to bribe the teachers into giving their little darling the best part, something I read happens a lot in the UK.

When Ed was younger we would read him the children’s versions of the nativity story and he really enjoyed the ‘cut out and colour your own nativity scene’ craft book that then graced our coffee table for many years, but I will admit Christmas has now become a holiday where he expects to be indulged by doting grandparents.

This year some good friends invited us to an English carol service being held here in France. To avoid the sulky teen act I remember so well it was Ed’s call whether we went or not, and go we did. The nine short lessons refreshed my memory of the nativity events and held his interest throughout. The nine carols, some we knew, some were new to us, were all sung to the best of our ability and enjoyed. As each reading introduced a character in the nativity, a slice of cake with a candle was added to a plate and anyone using cake to illustrate a point has my attention 100%. One lesson told of Joseph’s reluctance upon initially hearing his fiancée was with child that wasn’t his and I heard a lovely story this week about another reluctant Joseph.

A little boy at nursery school was playing the role of Joseph, but despite landing the lead role in his first nativity, all was not well. Our young star was disappointed as he had his heart set on the part of Mary. The reason was a simple one; Mary got to hold the baby! Why in these days of equality and political-correctness does Joseph not get to do his bit of baby holding too? Nursery/primary teachers please take note; you may just make some little boys very happy. Even ten years ago we never set gender boundaries on Ed’s playtime and he was as happy to dress up in Cinderella shoes or be a fairy with wings as he was being a soldier, policeman or pirate. If he had been in a nativity play I’m sure he would have been as happy playing Mary as any of the other parts and why not? More equality and less conflict can only be a good thing.

The carol service we attended was a great example of equality; being held in France, but in English and with a mixed French/English audience. It was a good evening out, with mulled wine and mince pies served afterwards, as well as being very good for Ed’s religious education too.

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