Back-to-Bethlehem Christmas party
For the Back-to-Bethlehem Christmas party we will have this year in our ward, we really want to make everyone feel like they are back in time 2000 years ago, in Bethlehem where Christ was born. To simulate this environment, I am concentrating on lighting, decorating, clothing, food, and a nativity performance.
Lighting - I want to make us all feel like we are outside at night, so we are stringing white Christmas lights about 20 feet high across the ceiling. I calculated for our stake center, we are buying 39 boxes of lights 21.6 feet strands (13 rows of three) and stringing them across with wire. I have seen this done before, and it looks like a starry night sky! Each booth will have their own light source, so we are not using the fluorescent lighting at all, but we are using the recessed lighting on the ceiling to supplement the other lights.
Market Place/decorating/food - I am setting the gym up like a Bethlehem marketplace with the following booths:
Treat-a-Pita: the RS is in charge of this booth. We are making falafels in pita bread. This is a Mediterranean dish that is served in Israel.
Fresh Fruit: the YW are serving bowls with fresh fruit
The Bake Shop: the Elders are serving finger-food desserts that the people bring (that is their “taxes” they pay when they enter the building)
McBethlehem Burgers: We are buying 100 McDonald hamburgers to serve the primary children (McDonalds is giving me a good deal on them)
The Drinks are bottled water and Capri Suns which I am serving from a well we are constructing from wood and corrugated cardboard that has a stone print on it (sold at US Toys). I am just hiding a cooler in the well with ice and drinks. The booths in the market place are made from EZ ups with sheets draped over them and tables underneath. I am having each organization decorate their own booth.
Order of Events - When the people first enter the back of the stake center, they will sign the census and pay their taxes (the dessert they bring). Then I will give them a cloth sack with money in it to buy the things in the marketplace. I call the money bag their “change” from their taxes. The head of the household holds the money bag for the family. I was able to order the cotton, drawstring sacks for only $0.34 each from here. And the money I got from US Toys here.
The people go into the chapel for opening exercises and prayer. I am having the ward choir sing “Oh Come all Ye Faithfull” and the bishop will describe to everyone how the marketplace works. We then all enter the gym through the back of the chapel while the pianist plays music. I will have a stone archway I will construct with those white food storage boxes you get from the cannery to put your cans in. Eight Roman soldiers (deacons) will be waiting at attention on each side as the people walk past them into the city. I am hoping this will stir their emotions as they see the pretty lights and the village scene.
They then have about 50 minutes to buy their food and eat it. I will have a quartet going around singing for entertainment, and a play station with little tents to play in for the young children.
If people run out of money and want more food, they have to go to the card booth and write a card to a missionary from our ward or a service man and earn a gold coin.
Everyone will sit on blankets on the floor, but people who are older or unable to sit on the floor can sit at the few tables I will set up in the corner of the gym.
Clothing - We want everyone to dress as if they live in Bethlehem, so I made a You Tube video that taught people how to make their costumes if they are not sewers. (I sent this as an e-mail to our ward, with tips on how to sew a tunic if they want to sew.)
Nativity Performance - I wrote a skit for this. . . .
Klein Ward - December 7, 2012
Purpose: The purpose of this skit, and the whole idea of having a Back-to-Bethlehem Christmas party, is for everyone in our ward attending to feel the joy of having our God, the creator of our universe, come down as a helpless infant to eventually guide us and save us from our sins. I hope people will be able to understand what a miracle that was, and how much love Heavenly Father showed us by allowing that to happen, Him knowing what His Son would have to go through. I therefore want the tone of this skit to be serious and realistic. We want people to feel like they really are in Bethlehem during this most amazing time in history…
Around 7:40 pm, Mary (with a pillow to look pregnant) and Joseph enter the city. Mary looks weak and pained, and Joseph is supporting her, asking people if they know of an Inn where there is lodging (you can word it how you want to). Try to get people’s attention in a humble, desperate sort of way. Around 7:55 the pianist will play soft music from “Oh Holy Night” while the stage crew puts on the front lights on the stage. When the audience has quieted down, Mary and Joseph enter stage left and in front of the curtain. The piano player stops playing.
Mary: [moans (not too big of a moan, we don’t want to scare the children!)]
Joseph: [asks the audience] Doesn’t ANYONE know of a place where my wife and I can stay?
Innkeeper: [enters stage right carrying a basket of fruit, looking frenzied. He is worried about serving all the people in his Inn]
Joseph: Sir, can you help us?
Innkeeper: My, is she about to have a baby! Well my Inn is full, with all the people coming to pay their taxes, we just have a lot of visitors tonight! See all these people who are from out of town [gestures to the audience]. Yet your wife clearly needs a private place to stay. [Pauses and thinks] Here, come with me. I think I know a place that will do.
[The innkeeper leads the way off stage right, and then Mary and Joseph get set up behind the curtain. This includes taking out the pillow, getting baby Jesus, and sitting on the hay on either side of the manger]
Narrator: [stands on the gym floor, to the side of the stage] “And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her first born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger…” (Luke 2:6, 7)(Please don’t say any of the references)
Stage crew: [have the lights already on Mary, Joseph, and Jesus then open curtains as soon as the narrator is saying “in a manger”]
Meanwhile, a singer comes from stage left and sings “Oh Holy Night,” accompanied by our pianist. (skip the verse about the kings from the orient)
Stage crew: [turns on star above stage]
Shepherds (cub scouts): [enter from the right on the floor in front of the stage and pretend to heard their sheep for a little while. Try to stay almost in the center in front of the stage but a little to the right]
Narrator: “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” (Luke 2:8)
Angel: [enters left and approaches the shepherds]
Stage crew: [put spot light on angel]
Pianist: [make some kind of magical sound when the light appears on the angel]
Angel: “Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, laying in a manger.” (Luke 10-12)
[the angel steps back and is joined by all the other angels (all activity days girls). They sing, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”]
Shepherd #1 says to #2 and #3: “Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.” (Luke 2:15)
[Angels exit left and Shepherds exit right]
Narrator: “And they made haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:16)
Shepherds:[they enter right on the stage and kneel in reverence behind the manger, facing the audience, and bow their heads]
Two singers sing, “Away in a Manger” p. 206 accompanied by our pianist.
(I say some things that tie it all together with some quotes from “The Living Christ”)
Audience sings “Silent Night” p. 204
I hope these ideas help someone more able to put on a great party for their ward, to remind them of the true reason for Christmas!