Christmas pageants and Christmas concerts have almost gone the way of the dinosaurs in this era of extreme political correctness. We have Winter Celebrations or “Holiday Concerts.” I, for one, have really fond memories of Christmas Pageants. Actual Christmas Pageants (even though our family wasn’t religious and didn’t go to Church).
I have a picture of me when I was about 4, in pre-school, all dressed up in white tights and a dress, complete with a little barrette in my hair. I was holding a big green sign made out of green construction paper and it had a red T on the front for “Tis’ the season to be jolly.” When it came to the singing part of the concert, I held up my sign proudly (albeit, upside down and I had no idea why everyone was giggling in the audience) and sang my part loudly and confidently. It was an auspicious beginning to my showbiz career 🙂 Maybe I should dig out that classic picture.
From there I don’t remember many of our Christmas Pageants except for the one we did in 6th grade where we sang Christmas songs from all over the world in foreign languages (and this was at a fabulous “open concept” public school, where we were taught by Hippies) and we actually acted out the Nativity scene that year. It was a big deal. I played Mary (how did that happen?). Go figure! What I remember most about this event was the costume snafu – I didn’t have a scarf to wear over my head (and cement my virginal look) and the teacher just about went apoplectic. Well, my mom wasn’t a girlie girl and didn’t have a scarf for me to wear, so I came to the pageant without one. Needless to say, Mrs Kowalski, our teacher, found one and my head was covered for our pageant. The other thing I remember from this pageant is holding something (a candle, maybe) as we walked down the middle of the aisle to the front of the audience, all the while, singing away. What I remember most is how many people were there but the sheer numbers didn’t make me nervous (that didn’t happen until I moved 2,500 miles away and I started at a new high school).
I also remember singing in the Van Buren Singers (it was after all, Van Buren Elementary School) and we sang O Holy Night. I have a vivid memory of auditioning to sing in this select group of singers and thinking we were singing Silent Night. When it came time to sing O Holy Night (Holy shit, what happened to Silent Night?) for the audition I one hundred percent winged it. Don’t know the words? Too bad, keep going and sing it enthusiastically! I got a part in that group and learned a valuable showbiz lesson – keep going even if you have no idea what you are doing! Good thing I learned that early on. I thoroughly enjoyed learning that song and singing it in a small group of singers. To this day, it is still one of my favorite Christmas songs and I get a little choked up every time I hear it.
After 6th grade, I gave up singing and stuck with the trombone. Therefore, my parents suffered through many, many concerts (Holiday or otherwise) because I was in band, orchestra, jazz band – you name it, I performed in it. And each group had its own holiday concert. My favorite was Tuba Christmas, which was a wall of beautiful brass sound! Woo hoo!!! Listening to my own kids perform through the years in bands and other groups, I am filled with wonder. I wonder, did my band sound like that when we performed for our parents? Did our parents clap so loudly and vigorously? I hope so. It’s a rite of passage to hear these concerts and see your own kids perform in them. I love them. They make me weepy and nostalgic!
One of the things I did in High School (and for many years in a row with the Nova Vista Symphony) was play a Holiday Concert with big, brassy Christmas songs. I love playing the Nutcracker even thought the trombones only play like 6 notes… I love playing Joy to the World and all of the obscure Christmas songs that 4 people on the planet can remember the words to. I love playing Sleigh Ride and volunteering to play the “whip” and listening for the trumpet to make the horse neighing sound.
I love that our kids have these kind of performances and performance opportunities. If they don’t do this in school, when would these kids have the opportunity to do this kind of performing? When would they learn these songs? I do think we should have Christmas Pageants and holiday concerts, if, for no other reason than to learn about the different religions around the world. Why shouldn’t we be more inclusive and learn about more religions than Christianity. I don’t want to turn this into a political blog but I do want to say that we can use school to learn. I think holiday concerts could be useful, not to teach religion in a way that says “you have to agree with what I am teaching you,” but to teach kids about all kinds of religions from an historical perspective and a cultural perspective. We could be more inclusive and learn about each other’s holiday traditions too!
I think my kids might be done with holiday concerts, but I still love them. I seek these concerts out and I really enjoy them. Know of a Sing Along Messiah? Love it! Know of any other special concert in our community? Come along and celebrate. Caroling? Yes! I’m there!
Tell me about your favorite Holiday Concert or Christmas Pageant memories and what holiday concerts you remember (either performing in or listening to)! I’d love to hear about it.