My First-Ever Christmas Pageant as the Virgin Mary

I anxiously listened for my cue line, “The time came for her to have her child,” and then, with nary a labour pain, I valiantly lifted Baby Jesus from his hiding place.

Nativity scene stained glass concept

Image Credits: Photo: Shutterstock

My Year as the Virgin

My mother, Mary Anne, and her friend Elizabeth had agreed to head up the annual children’s Christmas pageant at our local Catholic church, St. Anne’s in Peterborough, Ont. Their challenge was to transform 20 suburban youngsters from the year 1986 into shepherds, wise men and barn animals from the year 1.

“Why does she get to be Mary?” my older sister Kate whined.

“You had the role last year. Your sister gets to be the Virgin this year,” Mom replied. There may have been some spiritual nepotism involved in the casting (Elizabeth’s son, Tony, was playing Joseph), but I’d rather believe that our mothers recognized our raw talent.

Our costume budget was somewhat lacking so I wore my own white nightgown with a baby blue pillowcase bobby pinned to my head. Joseph wore a terry cloth robe and a brown bath towel on his head, held firmly in place with a curtain tieback.

There were no lines to memorize. Instead, as the lector read the story of Jesus’s birth, Joseph and I knocked on the imaginary door of the inn and looked appropriately downtrodden when the innkeeper shook his head and pointed to a wooden manger downstage centre. Bleating about the makeshift structure were a handful of children on their hands and knees with woollen sheep ears attached to headbands. Joseph and I calmly sat ourselves on a crisp pile of dry straw, among the livestock, to await the miraculous birth of our child.

I anxiously listened for my cue line, “The time came for her to have her child,” and then, with nary a labour pain, I valiantly lifted Baby Jesus from his hiding place behind a straw bale and set him into the empty cradle beside me. Jesus, in this scene, was played by my own Jesmar Newborn Baby. He was a wrinkled, anatomically correct doll I’d begged for Santa to bring me the year before. His real name was Daniel Edward Paul, but on this day, he was honoured to play the part of the Messiah.

The play was a success, and although not a usual occurrence during mass, the parishioners broke into thunderous applause—or at least that’s how I remember it.

Back at home, my younger sister, Kerry, and I held a post-mortem, and I imparted wisdom that would be helpful when the time came for her to play the Virgin Mother. Then we changed Daniel back into his fuzzy onesie.

“I didn’t know Jesus had an umbilical cord,” Kerry said.

“Obviously he does,” I responded. “He’s attached to God.”

Next, check out the heartwarming story behind one family’s 47-year-old Christmas Eve meal tradition.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada