How Muslims saved the nativity play at my school

Children in a nativity play in a Catholic school (AP)

Only a third of schools now hold a traditional nativity play, according to the group Netmums.

The Telegraph reports:

Only a third of schools now stage a full traditional nativity complete with Mary and Joseph, inn-keepers, shepherds and magi, according to the survey.

Meanwhile one in eight had said their children’s school had dropped the Christmas story altogether for a modern alternative without religious references.

And according to the BBC:

One in 14 said the school now opts for a fully secular event with neutral titles such as “Winter Celebration” or “Seasonal Play”.

About 2,000 parents have shared their experiences of how nativity plays are being adapted in some schools – and how there has been no nativity play at all in other schools.

They report how the story has been changed, so that rather than simply casting Mary, Joseph, shepherds, wise men and a donkey, there are parts for aliens, punk fairies, Elvis Presley, footballers, a lobster and a drunken spaceman.

Christmas carols have been replaced with Christmas-themed pop songs, report some of the parents.

There were also reports of schools changing the name of “Christmas” plays, with the suggestion that it was to avoid a specific reference to the Christian festival.

I tend to be sceptical about these Winterval-style stories about the war on Christmas, although I have some personal experience of this thing. When I was growing up in London in the 1980s under the GLC terror of Red Ken Livingstone, my ILEA-controlled school – run by Trotskyites who spent their weekends at Greenham Common, I recall in my distorted version of events – abolished the nativity play one year out of cultural sensitivity, or whatever the cant at the time was.

Instead, and this says something about how little some on the European Left know or care about other cultures, they made the children celebrate Diwali; then, as my mum remembers it, some Muslim parents complained and demanded Christmas back. They didn’t see why they should celebrate Diwali in England, but they were perfectly happy to get involved with Christian festivals. Aside from possible theological differences in Muslim attitudes towards Christianity and Hinduism, they had chosen to live in a Christian country after all. Why would they object to Christmas?

In my experience whenever I’ve looked into a story where some Christian part of public life is removed “on behalf of cultural sensitivities” or to “avoid offending Muslims”, it’s usually some white secularist who’s actually offended, or embarrassed about his own cultural heritage. Very few Muslims object to living in a country which is broadly and lightly Christian, or in taking part in Christian events. They certainly prefer it to a godless one. If nativity plays really are in decline then that’s a shame – a country needs a common culture, and I’m not sure that a drunken spaceman is quite enough.