Is the Traditional Nativity Play a Thing of the Past?

Is the traditional nativity play a thing of the past? Nativity plays, carol singing, Christmas cards they all seem to be a thing of the past, with schools looking for alternatives, people donating to charities (I’m all for it) rather than giving Christmas cards but are we losing touch with our history?

Family Traditions

Christmas Card Selection
Christmas Cards

I was in the supermarket last week talking about the passing of my Grandmother, seven years now and discussing the role of the internet, social media and how when you buy poppies you can donate via bank card! Something that would have astounded her. Seven years doesn’t feel all that long but things have moved so fast. Time keeps moving and she was a keen advocate for tradition. My Nan’s, for example, was attend the carol service at church on Christmas eve, followed by a mince pie and a glass of sherry.

A tradition that when she got sick, we stopped…just like that! Just showing how without realising a tradition family or otherwise can disappear without your really ever noticing.

You are Invited to…

I received a letter in my son’s bag this week. ‘You are invited to… it was my son’s school Christmas Concert. Being a special school its an interpretation and I find it one of the most emotional afternoons watching the children with different backgrounds, disabilities and social issues attempt to perform in front of us ‘a group of parents’, who probably scare the hell out of them!

It got me thinking about the Nativity plays or concerts and I wondered if they really are a dying tradition? You read about it in the media. There was an article written in the Telegraph (not my usual kind of read, but for this post I used it, please don’t judge). Titled ‘Is the traditional Nativity play worth saving?’ They mention adaptations of the Nativity scene with only mild references to Jesus and more ‘The Apprentice’ style performance. Are we really moving away from what used to a school tradition?


Schools are turning away from tradition as not to offend, upset or alienate anyone. Schools blame performing arts ‘budget’ cuts. Lack of funding for theatre arts is still something that I feel all schools should have access too (whole other post) but should we allow this tradition to die?

Nativity Scene
Nativity Scene

Is it about Mary?

We all know the excitement when our little ones return home with a note saying that they are going to be Innkeeper one, Mary, Joseph, Angel one, Gabriel and if you are very lucky chief lobster (Love Actually) but if you are anything like me that excitement soon fades to horror when the letter mentions costumes, headpieces and homemade items!!! (Ahhhh).

My Mum acquired the skills of a seamstress and knows her way around a sewing machine and a pattern. Sadly, it appears to have skipped me and I am useless with a capital U. My motto in life ‘buy it, you may need it again!’ But schools like the homemade look. I was lucky when my daughter was little she was Angel one so I bought the costume from Sainsbury’s, then she was Donkey for which the school had their own costume but for Mum’s like me. Turning my bedsheet into a Joseph costume is just wasted on me but boy do I wish I had my Mum’s talents.

Are schools wanting to be less competitive with offering the lead roles when considering Mary and Joseph? I have heard of schools have more than one of each in the role and a rapping Joseph but is that another reason why the tradition is fading, schools recent addition of you ‘get a medal for taking part’ attitude to life. It’s a whole other subject (sorry, I must stay on topic). But do schools feel that by not casting the traditional ‘leads’ that they are protecting little ones from the hurt of being the camel?

It got me thinking about the history behind the nativity play, why it was performed to start with and how it’s evolved.

The History

Most of us know that the traditional nativity play is the birth of Jesus. A pregnant Mary along with husband Joseph give birth to the son of God in a stable on the 25th December, they are bought gifts, Angels smile upon them and it’s that journey to the stable that is played out for parents.

There are many adaptations but the Christian church has its own version, along with many other faiths. The story has evolved over the years with some versions saying that she gave birth in the ground floor of a house, with animals being invited in because it was winter and how the Angels smiled upon them, not physically visited. I guess we all have our own interpretations.

The Future of the Nativity

It is sad to think that Schools and other organisations may feel that the Nativity is now a fading tradition. It is ultimately a community tradition, that often brings people together. I have known schools invite the elderly to watch such occasions, people who wouldn’t necessarily be given the option to attend anything else.

I don’t believe that they should be cancelled, perhaps a modern twist, incorporating other beliefs, allowing parents to exclude their children should they wish. There are many reasons to keep this lovely tradition alive.

I am not an overly religious person, I do however respect the beliefs and wishes of others. Both my children are christened as am I. I see the Nativity play as an important part of Christmas Traditions that celebrates the beginning of the journey of life.

I look back fondly and remember my little girl sitting in her highchair, dressed as a star, shaking a music instrument during her first nursery nativity concert. She was barely 18 months old but the joy of watching all our little ones attempting to tell a story was beautiful.

Do you feel that it’s a dying tradition? Perhaps just like me, you feel the dread every time the Christmas play is mentioned?

Don’t have time to read right now? Hit the PIN button and SAVE for later and SHARE with friends!

Like what you see on our blog? Join our mailing list to receive emails with freebies, projects and exclusive content. You can also follow us on InstagramTwitter and Pinterest.


  1. Really loved this post! I personally love nativity plays and my step-kids’ school are very good at them!

    1. alittlebitsocial2 says:

      Thank you, it’s something that I think is part of the Christmas tradition and it would be sad to see it fade completely.

  2. I love this! I never really realized that Nativity plays were being cut out of schools. I am in my 20s so I never really got to experience that except in my Catholic church. I am not too religious anymore, but I understand what you meant by a non-religious message behind it. Maybe it’s being cut not so much due to funds but due to conflicting religious views. It would be nice to have a modern play that included religious stories from multiple religious in a non-religious context, just more like story telling. That would be beautiful to watch!

    Grislean |

    1. alittlebitsocial2 says:

      Thank you, I think schools are looking towards the modern twist which is good.

  3. Hi great reading your blogg

    1. Thank you

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.