This time last year we were all entering our busy half term of Bonfire Night, Diwali and Christmas preparation. Christmas Stay and Play sessions were being planned, Christmas Fairs and choir recitals were being arranged, as were visits from the REAL Santa to hand out gifts (ordered from the catalogue that was giving school the biggest bulk buy discount).
Nativity plays were being cast and endlessly rehearsed to the point that all Early Years staff became Christmas hating Grinches by the second week of December (for all of three days then became teary, blubbery, Hallmark moment, messes when they got through the trauma of 3 performances and remembered exactly why they did it).
Parents gathered memories of their child’s first nativity. My eldest was a Wise Man in nursery with a beautiful outfit lovingly crafted by his grandmother. He rehearsed his one line (“I bring you myrrh”) daily then got on stage, cried and had to come and sit on my knee for the rest of the performance. By Reception Class he was a far more confident performer. My second born was a hardier chap and got told off for scaring the sheep by growling at them on stage (he took his shepherd gig a bit too far). My youngest is yet to do his first real Nativity (I won’t count the one he did in my class where he sat on my knee the whole time acting the fool) but is more feral than his bigger brothers so it will surely be one to remember.
Teachers gather those precious memories too. They reside somewhere within the nerves of the performance and herding children to and from the stage without being pinched by a loving parent or grandparent, leaving you to panic about how to recover your lost sheep while not losing the rest of your class (or your sanity). Getting to and from the stage is like herding kittens while internally swearing but externally smiling like a cross between the Virgin Mary and a Cbeebies presenter.
I have gathered many cherished memories over the years. The children who refused to sing, the ones who sand too loudly, the one who forgot her knickers after she did a wee in them and left them on the nursery floor before show time and didn’t tell us (her angel dress and legs akimbo during the opening song let us know, luckily before any parents spotted it). The ones who fall asleep, the ones who cry, the ones who decide to be the main angel (even though they are not scripted to be) and refuse to leave the stage when their Sugar Plum Fairy dance is over. T
he traumas of subjecting small children to endless rehearsals and the fun of getting together as an Early Years team to decide who to trust with those precious talking parts. The excessive combination of glaring while smiling, waving admonishing fingers or shooting glares at the kids who are pissing around when they should be singing about a donkey or blessed star of Bethlehem and the actions to the songs that get bigger and bolder as you silently will 60% of the children to stop spinning or picking their nose and join in like they did perfectly in the dress rehearsal (as if to spite you). Like many practitioners I love and hate Nativities in equal measure. Until this year of course. Because with our new COVID complicated workplace I can only think of those Nativity memories with a glitter-filled, mince pie scented tear in my rose tinted eyes.
BUT WE WILL NOT BE DEFEATED!!!
For anyone wondering how to keep the spirit of Christmas alive in your new COVID classrooms here are some ideas;
Nativities and Christmas Shows
Whether you go for the traditional Nativity, a Night Before Christmas theme or for one of the wackier offerings out there (Aliens wondering what all this Christmas business is about anyone?) do not give up hope. Here are some ideas:
What About Stay and Play?
Another event which we simultaneously love and hate, but 100% screams Christmas, is Christmas Stay and Play. Here are some ways to still include the parents and guardians in the crafty joy:
No Visit From Father Christmas? Booohooohooo!
Fear not. Here are a few ways to bring Santa into your classroom:
MERRY CHRISTMAS YOU FILTHY ANIMALS!!!!!!! LET THE GLITTER FEST/SEASONAL MICROPLASTIC GUILT COMMENCE!!!