Precious at the crèche: Christmas pageants give kids chance to be part of Nativity story

Students in St. Fabian Parish's first-grade catechism class act out the Christmas scene Dec. 17 at the parish social hall. The Christmas pageant is part of an annual tradition at many parishes, helping kids to learn to appreciate the Nativity story by role-playing and making the Gospel story their own. (Photos by Dan Meloy | Detroit Catholic)

FARMINGTON HILLS – Nativity pageants are an introduction to the stage for many children, creating precious moments for parents.

Adorned in robes and equipped with props, the first-grade catechism class at St. Fabian Parish in Farmington Hills acted out the Christmas story for parents and parishioners Dec. 17.

The 10-student cast included the Holy Family, the Magi, shepherds and angels, performing a short Christmas play in the St. Fabian School social hall, narrated by Nancy Pawlukiewicz, director of religious education at St. Fabian.

“The Nativity play is something we started many, many years ago as a way to give our public school kids a chance to do the Nativity,” Pawlukiewicz told Detroit Catholic. “It gives them a chance to be part of the Nativity scene and hear about the miracle of the birth of Jesus.”

Members of the first-grade catechism class pose for a group photo following the short play Dec. 17.

The short, 10-minute play gives students an introduction to the Christmas story, Pawlukiewicz said, where they learn the characters from Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem, not finding room at the inn and coming rest in a stable for Mary to give birth to the Savior.  

“You try to teach them the basics about how Jesus came to the world because God loves us and sent him to us,” Pawlukiewicz said. “The children learn how Jesus came on Christmas day, and Mary and Joseph were his loving parents who raised him before he started his ministry.”

The "three kings" kneel at the manger during the Nativity play at St. Fabian Parish in Farmington Hills.

Karen Bronson sat in the front row to watch her 6-year-old son, Evan, play the innkeeper and one of the shepherds in the play.

“Evan came home and was excited to let us know he was going to be in a play,” Bronson said. “I’m not sure how much preparation he put into becoming the innkeeper, but he is very dramatic, and we probably have a young actor on our hands.”

Bronson said they have an Advent calendar in their home and pray together in the evening as a way of anticipating Christmas and learning the meaning of the season.

“We have the Advent calendar he uses to count down to Christmas, opening up the little doors to learn more about the story,” Bronson said. “When we pray at night, he tells me about how excited he is about Jesus coming.

One of the shepherds leans on his staff at the conclusion of the Christmas pageant.

“As for him being in the Christmas pageant: It’s exciting they are doing this kind of thing in the first grade,” Bronson said. “You can’t beat it. It prepares him to better learn the story down the road.”

Pawlukiewicz takes great joy in the children learning their roles for the play, noting that older children in catechism remember their roles in prior Christmas pageants. 

“Older kids who come to watch the play remember when they were in the pageant,” Pawlukiewicz said. “We had one brother say, ‘Oh, I was a shepherd, too,’ another saying, ‘I was an angel, too,’ so they remember who they were. It really gets you into the Christmas mood, seeing first-graders really understand the story for the first time and making it special in their very own way.”