“Do not go in there, Dad. Mom’s a huge mess,” I hear Alex say from outside my home office door.
“Oh! Oh, no! She’s watching that movie—the sad Christmas one.”
“I’ll go check on her, “ I hear Nate say.
When he knocks on the door and enters, the culminating scene from the movie begins to unfold in miraculous splendor.
“Nate,” I say. “The statue of Mary comes alive. She just bursts into life—and she’s so beautiful! And she tosses the rose to the juggler—and he catches it! He really catches it!”—and I completely lose it—melting into tears.
“It makes you happy to watch this movie every year?”
“Yes—it makes me extremely happy,” I explain, while black mascara mixes with tears and snot—oozing in thick, ugly streams down my face. Nate backs away, cringing.
This “sad, Christmas movie” that I watch every year is a “modernized” version of The Juggler of Notre Dame, a medieval miracle play from France. In the “modernized” version, circa 1982, Barnaby, a circus juggler, loses his beautiful wife in a high wire accident that occurs before a large crowd. Though he can juggle well, he can’t catch or save his wife from her terrible fall. So, he wanders the city and countryside, juggling for spare change. Then, he meets a friend, who gives him hope. Sadly, the friend is killed and Barnaby swears to give up juggling, until he meets a sculptor who takes him in Christmas Eve. When all the people in the sculptor’s town bring gifts for the baby Jesus, Barnaby is ashamed because he has nothing to give. Just as he’s leaving the town—right after Midnight Mass—the spirit of his friend visits and encourages him to juggle for the statue of Mary, who comes to life and tosses him a rose.
It’s. The. Best. Christmas. Catharsis. Ever—for me, but not for Nate or Alex. This movie is too sad and outdated for their taste, so I’ll surprise them with a fun activity I’ll call “Pageant-In-A-Box.” After all, what else will we do after Christmas Eve Mass? We won’t have any other friends or family over, so we can entertain ourselves with this holiday script that stars just us—and the cat. Feel free to join in on the fun this holiday season by acting out the script below with your own friends and family:
–Eggnog—spiked or not
–Holiday cookies you’ve baked or bought
–Violin or other musical instrument someone in your family could play—or, use holiday music that could be played through portable speakers on a Smart phone
–Toilet paper, bows for presents, ribbons, adhesive tape, and various hats/caps
Number of Characters: 3 main characters + 5 neighbors who are “good sports”—or, take turns reading the different parts with the number of family members/friends present at the time.
Interior: Open floor plan living room/dining room/kitchen—decorated for Christmas. The Kennedy family is returning from Christmas Mass. Oddly, they hang their coats up carefully, but they just kick their shoes all over the floor. Sometimes they might trip over them during the course of the play. The family cat, SeaTac, snoozes on the sofa.
Exterior: The wind is howling and a snow storm/blizzard is kicking up. Eventually the scene moves to the out-of-doors in a neighborhood and the interior of one neighbor’s house.
Kennedy Christmas Pageant:
Alex: Cool! Ten people texted me while we were at church.
Cecilia: What did they text?
Alex: Nothing—just, “what’s up?” “hi.”
Cecilia: What will you text back?
Cecilia: How long will that take?
Alex: All night. I’ll be in my room.
Nate: Now, wait a minute, Alex. It’s Christmas Eve. We should spend time together as a family.
Cecilia: Oh! I know a fun game. We can wrap up and decorate Frosty the Snowman. We’ll break into teams. I’ll get Alex and Nate, you’ll get the cat. We’ll wrap our “Frosties” in toilet paper and then give them hats and bows and things. Then, whoever has the best one wins.
Nate: There are so many problems with that game. First, we’re in the middle of a snowstorm. We can’t just waste toilet paper like that. Second, how will we judge the “best one?” What are the criteria? Finally, what prize could you possibly come up with to motivate us to play this game?
Cecilia: I’ve got plenty of prizes . . hold on . . . let me get my purse . . .
Alex: Mom, Tic-Tacs from your purse are not prizes.
Cecilia: Okay, then. What else can we do?
Alex: Let’s just watch a movie.
Nate: Good idea! (The cat climbs into Nate’s lap and tries to distract him while he flips through channels. Every time Nate lands on a channel, everyone unanimously shouts, “No!” or “No way!” or “Yuck!”)
Cecilia: How about we just light the fire and relax with some eggnog?
Alex: Yes! Eggnog!
(Cecilia walks over to the refrigerator and opens the door. Loud noises of Castle Siege can be heard from Nate and Alex’s cell phones. They’re laughing hysterically as they inflict massive destruction on each other’s castles.)
Cecilia: Hey, guys! Keep it down! I’m having trouble finding the eggnog and I need to concentrate.
(Nate and Alex look confused, shrug their shoulders, and go back to playing—loudly.)
Cecilia: No, guys—really. Something’s wrong. I know I bought eggnog. I just know it.
Nate: Check the back of the refrigerator.
Cecilia: What do you think I’ve been doing? I’ve checked everything—including the freezer. I’ll just . . . just . . .I’ll take everything out of the refrigerator in order to find the eggnog.
(Cecilia proceeds to take every item out of the refrigerator and place it onto the counter top in the kitchen. After even the freezer is emptied, she collapses onto a kitchen stool and cries.)
Nate: What’s wrong?
Cecilia: There’s no eggnog.
Nate: This is bad. Really bad.
Cecilia: I know.
Nate: It’s not like I can just go to the store. All the roads are closed.
Alex: Eggnog is like, vital, you know.
Cecilia: What a complete nightmare! We’re living a nightmare!
Nate: Look, we can’t go to the store, but we could go door to door. Neighbors help one another out, right?
Cecilia: Why would we admit to all the neighbors that we don’t have eggnog?
Nate: At least we could meet a few people. We live next to hundreds of people we’ve never even met yet.
Cecilia: True, but we should offer something in return. Let’s grab the cookies we’ve made. Also, most people like to be serenaded.
Nate: Good thinking! Alex, grab your violin.
Alex: No—not the violin—please, no.
Nate: Your mother worked overtime to get you a violin and some very expensive lessons. A little “Silent Night” won’t kill you.
Alex: Fine. (Alex trudges upstairs to get his violin. Then, the Kennedy family goes out into the neighborhood in the snow.)
Nate: Let’s just begin with the neighbors across the street.
(They ring the doorbell and the door opens.)
Cecilia: We’re caroling for eggnog! We bring glad tidings—and rum balls!
Neighbor 1: Umm . . . Gee. . . um . . . we have a “no soliciting” sign on our door, so . . . (Door slams shut).
Alex: That was embarrassing.
Nate: We’re surrounded by tons of neighbors. Someone will help us out.
Cecilia: Here’s the plan. Alex, just start playing your violin the minute we ring the doorbell. (They ring the doorbell of the next neighbor’s house. The door swings open and Alex frantically plays a Christmas song as fast as he can.)
Neighbor 2: (Shouting over the noise of the violin.) We’d like to help, but we don’t have any eggnog to spare.
(Nate, Alex, and Cecilia knock on 11 more doors, only to be turned away. Finally, at the 12th house, the door swings wide open. They are greeted by a neighbor dressed as Santa.)
Santa: Ho! Ho! Ho! I’ve been expecting you! All the other neighbors put a warning on the neighborhood Facebook page saying you were going door to door asking for eggnog. Well, you’re more than welcome here. Come in!
Cecilia: Oh, bless you!
(Alex begins to play his violin and a beautiful Angel comes down the staircase.)
Angel: Hi, I’m Staci. I’m in your Spanish class. Don’t mind this outfit, I was singing in the choir at mass earlier. You’re Alex, right?
Angel: You’re on the swim team?
Angel: I meant to say hi, but I’m so busy with cheerleading and student council and all.
Alex: That’s a lot of stuff.
(The Angel serves Alex a soda and they talk.)
Santa: Now, everyone gather round. We’ve got to decorate each other as Frosty the Snowman, using the supplies you see on hand. The best Frosty gets Mrs. Claus’s gingerbread house, which she makes each year.
(All actors use the toilet paper, hats, bows, etc. to wrap and dress up each other as Frosty the Snowman. Nate and Cecilia pair up while Cecilia decorates Nate. Alex and the Angel pair off so that the Angel can decorate Alex and Mr. And Mrs. Claus pair off so that Mr. Claus can decorate Mrs. Claus. They determine a winner and hand over the gingerbread house as a prize.)
Santa: Alex, you play that violin pretty well, young man. Let’s say we take our act on the road.
Alex: What do you mean?
Santa: This neighborhood needs a good caroling. Let’s go! They won’t know what hit ‘em!
(On the way out the door, Nate steals a kiss from Cecilia under the mistletoe.)
Cecilia: (Pinching Nate’s cheek) You frisky devil, you!
(All go out into the night, singing and dancing badly.)
Your Turn: Do you like to entertain during the holidays? If so, what do you do?