View From The Downs – December 2015
by Roger Linn
Recently, my seven year old granddaughter was shown a video of her father working at a large commercial exhibition in Abu Dhabi. She thought it was very interesting, “but why,” she asked him, “are there so many shepherds?”
At this time of year and for a veteran of so many nativity plays, as both a participant and a spectator, it was not an unreasonable question for the child to ask. Especially since Mid Sussex is chock full of very small shepherds every December. Last year I enjoyed the truly remarkable sight of about thirty of them, complete with fake beards, holding hands outside my house as they waited to cross the road into church.
There are two main reasons for the phenomenon of the annual outbreak of tiny shepherds: one is that every child performing in the school’s nativity production must have a role. And whilst the opportunities to dress up as Mary or Joseph are necessarily limited, and there really can’t be more than three wise men, there are no numerical restrictions on shepherds, angels or sheep. Indeed, over the years I’ve been related to all three. However, angels are tricky to dress, simply because their costumes require wings and halos, neither of which are likely to survive all the way through the performance, and sheep – whilst essential to the spirit of the thing – are really just sheep. They don’t even have any lines. Hence the popularity of shepherds, with their natty tea-towel headdress and sheet ensembles, and the possibility of exchanging some snappy lines of dialogue with the angels. Happy Christmas.