First Christmas Nativity
Last December, my husband and I had just moved to a new house in the suburbs. We didn't know anyone and the area was quite rural. Next door was a little farm and one Saturday morning Ann, the woman who lived there, introduced herself and invited my husband and I to attend her annual Christmas party. I told her we would be delighted.
Two weeks later an envelope arrived in our post box. Inside was a little card in the shape of a stable with a glittery silver star over it. Tiny doors on the front opened to reveal the nativity scene inside. It was an invitation to our neighbour's Christmas party. The date and time were listed inside as well as instructions to come costumed as a shepherd on the first Christmas, and to bring a wrapped £10 present for the gift exchange. My husband and I are not very religious, but we thought the party would be a great way to meet our other people in the neighbourhood.
On the night of the party my husband and I put on our costumes and walked the short distance to our neighbour's farm. We wondered when she had put up the giant lighted star on top of her barn roof. A group of guests in shepherd costume met us on the porch and introduced themselves. One handed me a light blue robe and said it was traditional for the newcomers to play Joseph and Mary. At first I wasn't sure if I wanted this honour, but my husband told me to relax it wasn't as if I was being asked to BE the mother of Christ; only to play the role. I realised I was being silly and put on the blue robe over my shepherd costume.
Ann met us at the door of the barn and showed us inside. One corner had been set up as the nativity scene with live animals. There was a cow, a goat, a couple of sheep, and a black and white border collie. My husband laughed when he saw a pony dressed as a camel. She didn't seem to mind the tasseled bridle or oriental rug thrown over her back. I looked into the manger and smiled at the porcelain baby Jesus swaddled in blue cloth. Ann told us, no one had any lines and all we had to do was stand by the manger. What could be easier?
First to arrive were the three wise men. They each carried small brass bound chests. Next came the shepherds and finally a young boy carrying a toy drum. As the shepherds crowded around they began singing “The little Drummer Boy”. The wise men knelt one by one, placed the chests on the ground and opened them for us to see. My husband nodded at each. The boy came to the front of the crowd and held up his drum as the shepherds sang the words “Can I play for Him, on my drum?”. I gave him a nod and he tapped out a pretty good drum solo.
After the re-enactment our hostess showed the guests inside. The decorations were bright and festive. The fireplace was blazing and her husband offered us hot cider, coffee, or hot chocolate. We noticed the undecorated Christmas tree and he said that everyone would take part in the decorating after dinner and invited us to help ourselves to the buffet. There were a lot of choices: roast turkey and roast pork, roasted, mashed or baked potatoes, several kinds of vegetables, three kinds of stuffing, cranberry sauce, and several kinds of breads.
Ann came in while her husband was delighting us with funny stories of previous years performances that had not gone so smoothly. I liked the story about the family border collie, Jacob climbing in as a puppy and pushing the porcelain Jesus out of his manger crib.
After dinner, guests helped decorate the tree. First, strands of white lights were wound around the tree from top to bottom, then garlands of artificial holly. Next came ornaments of every style and description; from whimsical to traditional. Finally were beautiful multi-colored crystal icicles. I was worried about children handling them, until Ann told me they were made of unbreakable plastic.
When the tree was finished everyone went into the living room. Some sat on the couch and chairs, but others just sat on the floor. A santa hat was passed around and we each drew out a piece of paper with a number on it. The person who had number one would open a gift and the person with a number two had the choice of taking that gift or opening another, but they had to keep the one they chose to open. It was a very fun game. I liked the gift I opened, but my husband was one of many guests stealing a bottle of whisky from each other.
My husband and I had a great time, met lots of neighbours and will look forward to Ann's Nativity party next year and every year.