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Project Britain

British Christmas Traditions
by Mandy Barrow

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Nativity Plays

Woodlands Junior School is in the south-east corner of England

At Christmas time, it is traditional for Primary schools in Britain, to put on a Nativity play.


What is a Nativity Play?

The Nativity Play recreates the scene of Jesus’ birth in the stable and tells of how Mary and Joseph were visited by the Shepherds and Wise Men. The parts of Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds and the Wise Men are played by the children. In our school, the Year 3 children perform a Nativity to the whole school and to proud parents.

Joseph and Mary
Acting out the Nativity

History of Nativity Plays


St Francis of Assisi (pictured left) is said to have created the first Nativity performance in Italy in about 1223. In those days, many people were unable to read or write so they couldn't read the Christmas story in the bible themselves. Also many of the church services were in Latin which they didn't understand.

St Francis decided to change all that. He wanted not only to tell the story of the first Christmas but to show people what it must have been like on that night in Bethlehem when Jesus what born so he set up a nativity scene. He got hold of some live animals, a manger and some hay. Then he asked people from his village to take the parts of Mary and Joseph and the Shepherds.

Did you know?
Animals are not mentioned in the bible stories about Christmas. It all started twelve hundred years after the birth of Christ when a carol described how the donkey carried Mary to Bethlehem and the other animals looked after her and the new baby in the stable.
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Mandy is the creator of the Woodlands Resources section of the Woodlands Junior website. 
The two websites and are the new homes for the Woodlands Resources.

Mandy left Woodlands in 2003 to work in Kent schools as an ICT Consulatant. 
She now teaches computers at The Granville School and St. John's Primary School in Sevenoaks Kent.