The Christmas Pageant is a part of tradition. It can be as big and rehearsed or as small and spontaneous as one chooses. It is a beautiful way to tell the story of the nativity, get children involved, encourage participation, and increase joy during a hectic, time-crunched time of year.
The easiest and most inclusive pageant, is the simple reading of scripture, with hymns included, and children pantomiming it out. If a parish is looking for something bigger, there are lots of scripts out there and these produce beautiful pageants (but do not include those newcomers or visitors.)
The Christmas Pageant can be appropriately done on the Fourth Sunday of Advent during the Sunday School (Christian Formation) time, on Christmas Eve during the earliest Service (as the Ministry of the Word) or on Epiphany as an Epiphany Pageant (just add the Magi).
If the Fourth Sunday in Advent or Epiphany is chosen, add to the festivities with crafts, and refreshments. Publicize, invite, and encourage children from outside the church to come and participate. On Christmas Eve, new families attend and, usually, everyone leaves afterwards for scheduled plans.
In advance, I print instructions for families with children telling them where to go to get dressed and where to go afterwards to return the costume. Every child, who walks through our door, gets a chance to participate.
In the costume room, I have volunteers waiting to help the children. Each child is asked whether they would like to be an angel, shepherd or animal. I have chosen and rehearsed with older children to be Mary, Joseph, Lead Angel (guides the little angels), Lead Shepherd (guides the little shepherds) and Lead Animal Tamer (guides the animals). I, also, have chosen and rehearsed with the readers/narrators their parts in advance. The Lead parts have rehearsed the songs we will sing, too. It is the first verse of known carols, so the congregation/audience may participate too.
Costumes can be a problem for 100 children. For angels, I have men’s small shirts which I hot-glued gold or silver garland around the bottom and sleeves. I use the same garland for halos. Only lead angels get wings if the pageant is done during a service (not enough room for wings, otherwise). For shepherds, I use small men’s colored shirts and rope ties. For animals, I purchase costumes. The costumes are all in piles by role so children can be sent to the right volunteer once they have told the door-person which role they want to be.
After all are costumed, we head to where the pageant takes place. If the pageant is done during the service, children go sit with their parents at The Peace.
I have a Bethlehem Nativity cut out (looks like the stable) near the costuming room to encourage parents to take pictures there, rather than clog up the area the pageant will take place.
For the staging, I have small chairs for Mary and Joseph who come in to “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and take their seats. There is a Jesus doll in a manger waiting between the chairs. Poinsettias decorate the area. The animals are already there around the stable. I have blankets or hay bales so the animals know where to go.
When the shepherds enter (some are carrying stuffed sheep), the angels come from the other side. I have a Lead Angel in the pulpit to say the line of Good News. The angels then go and make a half circle around the back of Mary and Joseph. When the shepherd go to see the baby, I have them make fill in around, but not block Mary & Joseph. If the pageant takes place on any day but Epiphany, the pageant ends with the Shepherd visitation.
After the pageant or service, the same volunteers are at their stations to hang up and fold the costumes, so they are ready for next year.
It is simple, beautiful, and a joy to watch.
For costumes for Mary and Joseph click here on their names. For Lead Angel costumes and Lead Shepherd Costumes, click on their name. For staging or suggest shirts and items, click above on the item. Purchasing through the links helps fund this site.