Happy Winterval: Schools Dump Traditional Nativity Play

Happy Winterval: Schools Dump Traditional Nativity Play

Winterval is here again and two thirds of British schools are celebrating by saying ‘bah humbug’ to the traditional Christmas nativity play. This year thousands of children will be depicting festive favourites like aliens, punks and even businessman Alan Sugar instead of Jesus.

A survey by the website Netmums shows that just one third of schools planned a traditional nativity, whilst half would be offering a modern take on the story. The characters in these plays are often unrecognisable from the original story, and the plays themselves are being renamed with neutral titles like ‘Winter Celebration’, ‘Seasonal Play’ and ‘End of Year Concert’.

The move away from the traditional Christmas nativity play is not popular with parents, 65 percent of those whose children’s school done not have a play are unhappy. Just 22 percent of parents take the view that the nativity is “unimportant”.

One Christmas tradition that does seem to be alive and well in schools is the determination of mums to get their child the best possible role in the play. A quarter of parents suspecting fellow parents were lobbying teachers to get their child cast as one of the lead characters, whilst 14 percent admitted to having been disappointed with the role their child was given.

The survey showed schools are still placing restrictions on photography at the plays. Only 38 percent of schools allow parents to take pictures of the play freely. In 16 percent cameras are banned altogether, while 14 per cent of schools video the performance then charge parents for copies. 

And in a sign of the times, a third of schools ask parents to sign forms stating they will not share snaps on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

The research is likely to add to concerns that public bodies are trying to remove Christian traditions in an attempt at political correctness. The phenomenon is not new. In the late 1990s Birmingham City Council was heavily criticised for replacing Christmas with a series of events entitled “Winterval”. 

At the time they claiming removing the Christian references was to accommodate those of other faiths. They later had to admit that they had received no complaints from minority religions for celebrating Christmas.