History of Nativity Plays
The tradition of the nativity play goes back to 1223, but today it is a firm favourite in most primary schools in the UK. The recreation with child actors of the birth of Jesus not only helps to teach the children the reason why we celebrate Christmas, but also is a great artistic opportunity for schools to involve many, if not all, the children in a play for their parents and the community.
The play usually begins with Mary receiving the promise by the angel of the Saviour´s impending birth and her journey with Joseph to Bethlehem in order to register with the authorities due to a Roman decree. The shepherds, wise men, angels and animals create opportunity for the involvement of many children, culminating in the birth and adoration of the baby Jesus.
However, the very first play was performed by Monks and not by children. The Monks of St.Francis of Assisi in Italy used the idea of a nativity play in order to tell the story to the local population that Jesus was born for everyone and not just for rich people.
The nativity play continues to be a popular activity for children in UK schools and the idea of the baby in the manger, the central focus of the play, has now become part of many family homes, with cribs, characters and animals being placed around the manger in order to remember the reason for the season.
In many parts of the world, particularly in Latin America, Italy and Malta, the manger scene (local name Pessebre), is the focus point in the home for the celebration of Christmas, not the Christmas tree.
The tradition is kept alive by a special society in Malta and we are sure this will be part of our Christmas celebrations for many years to come.