There was Mary and Joseph and the whole crew of wise men and a real baby (looking beautific with his Sesame Street soother under soft lighting), piles of straw, shepherds pushing sheep around, kids in Middle Eastern bathrobes and headresses cuddling goats, and even a donkey or two.
The Roman soldiers skulked around in fine cantankerous Roman boogeyman form, harassing the citizens of Bethlehem and threatening to eat children's pet rabbits and such--ah, the Romans do have a bad rap in this little story, don't they?
I'd expected all this, but I'd heard by word of mouth from my enthusiastic nephew (who went to this event last winter) that this particular church put a little more effort than was usual into the Nativity project. Apparently, they start building the site in August.
Once past the place where Mary and Jesus are, you follow signs to "Bethlehem" and emerge into narrow "streets" mocked up quite cleverly with faux stone buildings and lined with wooden stalls. There was apparently over two hundred costumed people creating this show.
You could watch various artisans at work like the potters, spinners, and candlemakers....
Or watch the blacksmith working away at an anvil, watch soap-making demonstrations, beat a little bowl out of copper, sample spices and fruit, and eat freshly-baked bread dipped in honey from a clay oven....
There were carpentry shops, stalls hung with jewellry or baskets, mosaic-makers and fish-mongers. It was crowded and the ceiling was hung with cloth awnings and wooden signs in Hebrew...
There were several "buildings" where you were able to peek in candle-lit windows and watch people pretending to go about their daily lives cooking in their kitchens or eating meals. It was really quite evocative.
I really quite enjoyed myself as I wandered around munching on pomegranates and candied ginger, petting the sheep, and chatting with scribes and masons and broom-makers.
There was also a slave auction called "Saultheby's" (umm...) and a place you could lock your kid up in the stocks (yep, more fun with the Romans).
It was fun way to spend a couple of hours anyway--and when you funnelled out of the Nativity scenes and back into the church you get hot chocolate and cookies and a wee bit of evangelical singing. I may not be Christian but I can appreciate the time and effort that went into all this. Apparently it's an annual event, on for four nights each year in Parksville. I recommend it.
Could be an inspirational way to spend a December evening for my friends of the Society for Creative Anachronism persuasion!