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Are School Nativity Plays Appropriate?

When you’re seven years old, the school nativity play is one of the highlights of your social calendar. It’s a chance to wear a tinsel halo, stand on a stage and be applauded by your parents as they tell you how proud of you they are. School nativity plays have long been a tradition in British culture, but the question must be asked, are they still appropriate? It has been predicted that by 2050 only 45% of people living in the UK will consider themselves to be Christian, so is it appropriate to continue this annual ritual of encouraging children to engage with Christianity, when it is something that the majority do not believe in?

The community that I grew up in is now one of Britain’s first majority minority communities, and the children attending the schools in this area represent a huge variety of different ethnicities, cultures and religions. Is it fair to promote the religious beliefs of some children and not others simply for the sake of tradition? Children are encouraged to consider their teachers to be symbols of authority and superior knowledge, and in a classroom full of children who hold a huge variety of religious beliefs, is this sending non-Christian children the message that some of their classmate’s religious beliefs are more credible and legitimate than others?  

One of the issues is that it’s not always made clear to children that the nativity is a story about what Christians believe, rather than the documentation of factual events from an objective perspective. From my own experience of primary school nativity plays, the story we were performing was presented to us as a universally accepted historical fact rather than a Christian belief, and that there was no mention of the fact that many religions did not believe this or believed other things. Some people may argue that non-Christian children are not forced to partake in nativity plays, but is exclusion and separation really the answer? In our multi-cultural society, perhaps we should adapt our festive celebrations and make sure that everyone’s religious celebrations are given equal emphasis, rather than presenting Christianity as the default setting.

Edited by: Tia Ralhan




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