A Covid Christmas

The news about the vaccines is encouraging. Perhaps we can, at last, look forward to those broad sunlit uplands in which life returns to normal. However, Christmas 2020 is still ahead. Certainly, Christmas will always be Christmas. Even Covid 19 cannot remove the wonder but it will be a different Christmas.

Half the shepherds have been furloughed and the Wise Men cannot come due to the ban on international travel. The Angel Choir is not allowed to sing. Nicola has put Bethlehem into Lockdown Level 4 so the Inn is closed and there is, truly, no room whatsoever.  Rudolf’s red nose caused worries about his temperature and the poor beast is now in self isolation dreaming of foggy Christmas nights and listening to endless repeats of his favourite song. Last, but not least, Santa’s  elves are all working from home and as such are so far behind with their toy making that they will not be ready. Oh Dear, Christmas is not cancelled but will be markedly different. However, do you remember when one of the highlights of this season was the School Nativity Play......................?

The gym was packed. Late comers were standing at the back. However, the play had been a complete success and the Teacher was well pleased. It was her third year as Producer and a very talented class this time made her feel that this year of all years she had really hit the mark.

The hall fell silent for the final tableau. The lights came up and the Innkeeper brought on the Holy Family and settled them on a bale of straw. The Teacher looked at Mary and Joseph and recalled the angst she had suffered over this casting. Anne MacDonald and Dougal Crombie loathed each other with venom only Primary Seven children can exhibit. They were rivals academically, rivals in the Scots Language Competition, rivals in the poetry competition, even rivals in who could design the best class Christmas card. Staff Room gossip said that this pairing would not work but the Teacher saw a beatific Mary in Anne’s fair hair, pale skin and blue eyes, similarly, a strong and protective Joseph in Dougal’s dark countenance and broadening shoulders.

The Shepherds came on. They were a naturally boisterous bunch with Mum’s tea towel for a headdress and Dad’s dressing gown for their main garment. However their gazes of wonder as the Angel appeared on the hillside had been perfect and while their consequent singing had been enthusiastic rather than melodic they had been very good. As they settled round the Holy Family the Wise Men entered. Their solos had been of a particularly high standard and the regal way they had carried themselves was just what was required. Finally, the Angels filed in from either side. Well scrubbed kids clad in beautifully ironed and spotless white sheets with stiff cardboard wings sprayed with silver.

Thus the scene was set for the final act.  As the lights dimmed, the cast were still, all eyes on the Baby. The tableau was truly beautiful. The audience was captivated. Proud Mums and Dads beamed at their offspring.  People really felt there was a presence on stage. The Teacher heard a sob near the front. Further back someone was openly weeping. On looking round, the Teacher saw the hard bitten Headmistress, due to retire this month, surreptitiously wipe a tear from her eye.

The lights dimmed further and the Accompanist made ready. Then Mary dropped the Baby. As the dolly hit the floor its head fell off and rolled towards the front. The audience collectively gasped. The cast were shocked. Silence ruled in the hall. Into this void came Dougal’s sotto voce but unmistakably Glaswegian snarl – “MacDonald ah telt ye, yir mince as a maw”.

(Based on an incident witnessed by the late Rev. James Currie who ministered in the Pollok area of Glasgow for many years)


IH Cairns