Once again the time had come for a get together to cut out stars, donkeys, crowns and sheep.  This is a lovely sociable couple of hours with scissors, ribbon and a cup of coffee, taking place a couple of weeks before D-day.  These shapes are given to people as they arrive for the service and they are encouraged to wave them during the appropriate carol.  They are also given battery operated tea lights which are lit during the singing of Silent Night, when the church lights are turned low, and this creates a lovely atmosphere.

Christmas Eve this year happened to fall on a Sunday which meant the Meeting Room couldn’t be prepared in the morning as usual.  However everything was in place at the right time and early afternoon found me and my helper putting out the costumes on seventeen chairs in the Meeting Room with a child’s name label on each one.  This isn’t as straightforward as you might think as the children are all different sizes, as are my costumes, and so the roles have to be allocated accordingly.  I have a check list to make sure I remember everything I need, from safety pins to the star, Kirby grips to the baby, the donkey, sheep, crowns, tinsel, and so on.  We were ready for them!

One king had decided in the morning that he would rather be a shepherd so I re-allocated those two roles.  However, this meant that the third king would have to be a girl but she was very obliging and agreed quite happily.  We dressed her in the most feminine of the costumes, including a pretty pink headdress under her crown.  Unfortunately, she changed her mind later which meant exchanging her with a shepherd.  The problem here was that the shepherd’s costume was too big but another was found as, thankfully, I have extras.  Then the shepherd, now a king, was left with a flowery tunic and a pink headdress.  Again, I have a fair selection and was able to change the pink for a more suitable cream.  By this time I was beginning to feel somewhat confused!

At last they were all ready and it was time for a photo.  They were arranged in an appropriate group and the cameras began to flash.  A number of mothers were taking photos as well as me, and the children must have felt as though they were stars, which of course they were.  Then the mothers went into church to find their seats and the children were lined up at the door in the correct order.  This means the last shall be first and the first shall be last, to ensure they are seated in the Lady Chapel with the first ones to walk around at the front, the kings at the back, and the shepherds and angels between.

The children were extremely good and well behaved and I was proud of them all.  One king managed to break his necklace but the beads were ably collected by a helper and put in his pot of frankincense for safe keeping.  (I then spent my evening re-threading them.)  One sheep suddenly landed at the bottom of the chancel steps and was collected by a toddler who obviously wanted to join in – perhaps next year?  Gabriel’s tinsel halo slipped a bit and eventually finished up around her neck, the music ran out when the shepherds and angels were still travelling to Bethlehem but other than that, as far as I could tell, everything ran very smoothly.

It would be impossible for me to cope with all these children without the cooperation of their parents and the invaluable support given by my stalwart helpers and to all of them I give my heartfelt thanks.  Many people are involved in the annual Crib Service and it’s only as a team that it happens, so thank you to everyone concerned. 

Hilary Burtonshaw