Sunday, December 8, 2013

Not Your Ordinary Christmas Tale



The Christmas Pageant:
A tradition that never grows old.

            This morning, near the end of our church’s Advent Celebration service, children paraded down the aisle, dressed in the familiar attire of shepherds, wise men, and angels. The pint-sized actors gathered around a manger, where “Mary” gently tended the baby Jesus and “Joseph” helped her keep watch over him.
            Watching that timeless scene unfold, I was reminded of my very favorite Christmas story, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. First published in 1972, the story probably wouldn’t clear all of today's “politically-correct” hurdles as there is something in it to offend just about everyone at least once.  There are church gossips and busybodies, there are schoolyard name-calling and bullying. A good case could be made that it contains child abuse and even—heaven forbid!—cruelty toward a cat.  
You can see from my copy
of this book it is well read.
            But, for me, this is the quintessential Christmas story (besides, of course, the original one). No matter how many times I read this little book or see the play, I laugh out loud at the antics of the  incorrigible Herdmans, a ragtag collection of siblings who terrorize an entire town and threaten to hijack the annual Christmas pageant. But always by the end of the story, I’m in tears. When I read about Imogene Herdman crying as she performs her role as Mary, I think that perhaps no other “actress” has ever taken the assignment so much to heart. And when Gladys Herdman “with her skinny legs and dirty sneakers sticking out from under her robe” yells “Hey! Unto you a child is born,” she embodies the excitement that must have filled the first heralds of that message.
            Yes, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever isn’t your typical, reverent Christmas story. But I think it’s one of the best because it deals with an imperfect world and the  imperfect people who inhabit it. Ultimately, it is the story of transformation and redemption. And, after all, isn’t that what Christmas is about?
            Have a favorite Christmas story you’d like to recommend?

 

15 comments:

  1. I can't recall any childhood favorite Christmas stories, but some years back I was introduced to Fannie Flagg as a writer with her A Redbird Christmas. Loved the humorous-yet-realistic characters, somewhat like those you described. I don't even have favorite Christmas movies. Confession: at last night's neighborhood chick pajama party, I had to answer the question "What color is the Grinch?" Even with multiple choices, I was wrong! (I said white.) Not sure what all this says about me... :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Natine, I read A Redbird Christmas a few years ago and enjoyed it. Thanks for reminding me of it. And btw the "chick pajama party" intrigues me. Do you have pics?

      Delete
    2. I do, and will send a few separately. :) Not of me, of course -- I was taking them! :)

      Delete
  2. Sounds like a story with a lot of heart, Dee Dee - I'd love to read it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just happen to have an extra copy, Shel. I'll get it to you.

      Delete
  3. I love the Best Christmas Pageant Ever!!! I got to direct it a few years ago at OKWU and it was a huge success. I was surprised that very few people had ever heard of it before.
    My favorite part was the ham. It was hilarious in that she brought a Jewish baby a ham, but so poignant that the Herdmans would sacrifice their Christmas dinner. They truly saw the story that we've heard so many times before that it has just become white noise behind our shopping feeding frenzy.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Christine, I loved the part about the ham, too. So funny and yet what a sacrificial gift from the Herdmans. If you ever direct the play again, let me know. I'll drive all the way to the 'ville to see it!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Just last week I arrived at a school for an author visit. The media specialist was reading The Best Christmas Pageant Ever to a group of students. You're right, it is a wonderful story and I'm glad children (and adults) are still reading it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad to hear they're still reading it, too, Susan. I googled the author and learned she died just this past summer. Sad, but what a legacy she left behind.

      Delete
  6. Thanks for reminding me of this, DeeDee! I love this story, it's one of my favorites. I'm going to have to find a copy for us to add to our Christmas library. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I recently bought a copy at Best of Books in Edmond. I'll bet you can find it in bookstores around you. I like the idea of a "Christmas library." I have one, too.

      Delete
  7. I have this book in my Christmas library and will re-read it again this year at your suggestion! One of my all time favorites is Santa Mouse. It is a rhyming picture book that I read as a child over and over and over . . . and then it was lost in a move when I was older. I never forget how it made me feel and so when Lindsay was 4 or 5 I looked for it on the internet and it was still in print! We now have a new copy and it is every bit as special as my original. Don't you love books?!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Lisa, I'm definitely looking for this for Master Brooks. It sounds like his kind of book, and perhaps he will do a review of it!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I just made a book recommendation on my blog! (Notice how subtle I am with hints. Man, I could be a spy or something.) I'll definitely be adding Best Christmas Pageant Ever to my list. YAY!

    ReplyDelete