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2 December 2014, 05:32
Only a third of North East schools still hold a traditional nativity play
A new report from the UK's biggest parenting site Netmums has revealed the most common Christmas celebration is now an 'updated nativity' - mixing modern and traditional characters - performed at almost half (47% of schools).
While 91% of respondent's schools stage some form of Christmas performance, one in eight (12%) have dropped traditional nativity characters altogether to stage a 'modern nativity' with no religious references.
Just 35% of children still sing traditional carols and hymns, while a 26% are instead given Christmas pop songs such as 'Rocking Around The Christmas Tree' to perform.
Controversially, the study of 2,157 parents found 7% of schools refuse to call it a Christmas or Nativity performance, favouring 'Winter Celebration', 'Seasonal Play' or 'End of Year Concert'. And in a growing trend, one in 100 schools ask pupils to perform Xmas plays incorporating information on Eid and Hanukkah and Diwali.
Among the new Modern Nativity roles being introduced in schools across the UK plays are aliens, recycling bins, a Sir Alan Sugar-style 'Lord Christmas', punk fairies, Elvis, footballers, a lobster, a napkin, carrots, sprouts, a pumpkin and a drunken spaceman.
But despite its decline, there is overwhelming pressure from parents to continue the tradition of a Christmas Nativity play.
Almost two thirds (65%) of parents whose school doesn't hold a traditional nativity would like it to, with just one in five feeling the Nativity is 'unimportant'. A further 13% planned to teach their child the Christmas story at home.
But whatever form of play their school holds, parents remain keen for their child to take a starring role. One in nine parents quizzed had witnessed other mums pressuring teachers to give their child a main part while a further quarter (26%) suspected it went on at their school. And 14% confessed to being 'upset and disappointed' by the part allocated to their child in the school Christmas play.
Parents were also unhappy with school policies as 17% of schools now charge parents to attend the Christmas play and a further nine per cent expect a donation to the school for staging it.
The most popular costume requested by schools was an Angel, with 40 per cent of parents having to provide one, followed by a quarter who were asked to make a shepherd costume and 14 per cent a sheep outfit.
The study also found one in 11 schools now stage a celebration for Diwali, along with one in 20 for Eid and Thanksgiving, plus three per cent of Hanukkah.
Netmums co-founder Siobhan Freegard said:
"At some schools, it seems not. While the UK is a diverse and multicultural society and it's right children learn about all religions and cultures, many parents feel the traditional nativity is being pushed aside.
It seems wrong to bombard kids with commercial messages about presents and Santa without them realising the true meaning of the celebration.
This study shows many parents who aren't religious look to the Nativity as a comforting part of the Christmas celebrations and want their school to embrace and celebrate it, rather than make up a version with perhaps less resonance for kids.
Christmas is about peace, acceptance and tolerance, so let's see more schools accept back this tradition."