With religion under attack on different fronts, public places have moved away from religious symbolism. Courtyards that once displayed a nativity now offer something more mainstream or don't decorate at all. Some churches have even given up exterior religious displays, keeping everything contained internally. Unfortunately, these changes have removed the very thing that Christian families consider to be the true meaning of the holiday. Some are moving toward family plays in celebration of Christmas.
Determine exactly where the play will take place. Keep it contained on your property to avoid breaking neighborhood, city, county, or state ordinances. Do it inside the home, in the garage or yard, or on a porch. Select an alternative location for a planned outdoor event in the event the weather doesn't cooperate.
Select your favorite Biblical passage, book version or write your own play to tell the nativity story. Keep it short in length; around 15 to 30 minutes (including music).
Choose background music. Figure out what songs will be played and where each one fits into the event. Assign someone to be in charge of making sure the right music is played at the appropriate time.
Identify who will portray the nativity characters of Mary, Joseph, the innkeeper, wise men, shepherds and the angel. Also, choose a narrator. Keep all play dialogue simple or let the entire story be told by the narrator.
Design the set that you will use in the Nativity pageant. If a formal set is desired, choose someone who can build it. Otherwise, a simple set could include the representation of a manger and bales of hay, which can be picked up at any local feed store.
Design the costumes. Sew them yourself using pre-existing patterns or use existing or clothing to simulate them. Mary can wear a plain nightgown with a rope or braid belt tied at the waist. Pin blue fabric around her head to simulate the Madonna's veil. Use bathrobes over plain pajamas or nightshirts for the shepherds, with towels or terry cloth fabric tied around the head with rope or braid. Make a similar costume to the shepherds' for the innkeeper. Dress Joseph in a plain nightshirt and cover it with a robe or make one out of a stripped throw. Make him a turban from lightweight plain cotton. Put brocade fabric around the neck of wise men clad in plain pajamas or nightshirts. Wrap another type of highly decorative fabric such as satin into a turban around their heads. Secure with hold brooches. Make an angel's dress out of a plain white sheet. Use purchased wings or make your own from cardboard, aluminum foil, tinsel and elastic. Secure them in place with elastic. Use tinsel to make a halo.
Schedule a rehearsal for everyone involved, including the music master and the narrator. Time the play in conjunction with the music. Continue rehearsing until the play runs as desired and within the established time guideline.
Stage the area with set support, seating for guests and any other background requirements at least one hour in advance. Get everyone in costume at least 20 minutes before the play starts. Make sure that all guests are seated quietly before the play begins.
Recognize everyone involved in the Nativity pageant, by name, after the performance is complete.