PLAYS OF THE SONGS OF CHRISTMAS
Classroom Plays for Music, Holiday Events
* Written by L.E. McCullough, Ph.D.
* ISBN: 1-57525-062-4
* Retail List Price: $17.00 (check online retailers for other prices)
The Plays of the Songs of Christmas are original dramatizations of 12 of the world's best-loved Christmas songs, celebrating the legends and lore that have made December 25 the most festive day on Earth.
Each play has an introduction with information about its history and related holiday customs, as well as helpful notes for staging, costuming and music.
Perfect for schools, churches, community groups and family gatherings, the Plays of the Songs of Christmas provide plenty of Christmas all year round — Christmas as seen in the eyes of children who know for a fact that Christmas is truly the greatest miracle there ever was.
1. Here We Come A-Wassailing. An English rural cottage in Yorkshire, 1599. The Holcomb family’s snobby London cousins come visiting for Christmas and complain how boring the country is. A knock at the door is heard and into the house burst a company of village mummers whose ancient wassailing customs and colorful musical gaiety transform Christmas into a vibrant holiday of genuine celebration and spirit.
2. The Twelve Days of Christmas. in this hilarious rhyming play, Prince Hasalot arrives at the palace to win the hand of Princess Harmonia, filling the court with ever more outrageous gifts until the stage is crammed with leaping lords and dancing ladies, pipers, drummers, maids and unruly flocks of geese, French hens, turtle doves, swans, etc. Finally, the exasperated Princess convinces the Prince that Christmas isn’t about expensive gifts — it’s about caring for people and giving of your inner self. The Prince gets the message and gives his gifts to the poor, inviting the kingdom into the palace for a huge feast.
3. Silent Night. Disaster threatens the tiny village of Oberndorf, Austria, on Christmas Eve, 1818. Father Josef Mohr, pastor of St. Nicholas’ Church, is informed by his choir director that the humidity from the recent spate of rain and snowstorms has rusted the organ pipes and there will be no music for Midnight Mass; worse, the sexton declares that the rising Salzach River may flood the town and church itself. Fr. Mohr visits Franz Gruber, a guitarist and folk musician, and asks him to compose a choir song for guitar. Together, Mohr and Gruber create the words and music for Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht! — Silent Night, Holy Night — and at Midnight Mass, the town gathers, fervently sings the song and receives word that the rampaging river has stopped and is beginning to recede ... town and church saved!
4. O, Christmas Tree. St. Boniface and a young monk are in 8th-century Germany attempting to convert the pagan Teutons to Christianity. On Christmas Eve, in the forest near Geismar, they come across a pagan chieftain and his men about to sacrifice one of their tribe at a giant oak tree — the sacred tree of the pagan god Odin. Seizing his wooden staff, St. Boniface strikes the tree down with one mighty blow and frees the victim. The Teutons are impressed by the saint’s power and immediately convert to Christianity, but bemoan the loss of their symbol, the giant oak tree. St. Boniface points to a tiny fir tree nestled among the roots of the fallen oak and tells them to take that as their symbol — the “ever green” symbol of Christ, bringer of life eternal.
5. Diamonds in the Snow. At Christmas dinner, Grandpa is asked by his grandkids to tell a story about “the old days”. He tells about when he was a boy in the mountains of East Tennessee, and the family was too poor to have any toys — his widowed mother a textile mill worker who’d been laid off in October and the one narrow road leading into the hollow completely closed by snow. Even so, he believes Santa Claus will come, a belief his Aunt Leddy encourages by saying that if you look really hard, you can see “diamonds in the snow” — the footsteps of where an angel has walked — and your wish will be granted. On Christmas Eve, the boy dreams of diamonds in the snow and is awakened by strange noises outside and downstairs; he wakes his mother and aunt and discovers they have presents under their tree — as do all the homes in the hollow, even though the road is still blocked by snow.
6. Jingle Bells. Christmas Eve, 1857, Boston. The Pierpont Family is ready to travel to Grandmother’s farm for Christmas dinner, but their new horse, Pettynoll, refuses to move. Father says that the man who sold the horse was from Quebec, and the Pierpont children, Lucas and Liza, wonder if perhaps the horse has another name — a Christmas name. Mother notes that “pettynoll” could also be pronounced “Petit Noël” — French for “little Christmas”. Hearing the correct pronunciation of its name, the horse whinnies but still does not move. Lucas and Liza suggest making up a Christmas song about riding a horse, and the family creates Jingle Bells, which finally gets Pettynoll off and running.
7. Good King Wenceslas. On a wintry St. Stephen’s day in 10th-century Bohemia, King Wenceslas shares a royal feast with his nobles. The King looks out the window and sees a ragged serf foraging on the hill for firewood. Queen Marta encourages him to help the peasant; Wenceslas’ brother, the haughty Duke Boleslav, says such charity is a waste of time. Wenceslas decides to personally deliver food, drink and gifts to the peasant’s family and sets out in a blizzard with his young page; the page begins to freeze, but an angel appears and tells the page to walk in the King’s footsteps. The page does so and is immediately warmed with every step until they reach the serf’s house and have a feast.
8. O Thou Joyful Day. The island of Sicily, 320 A.D. A bearded traveler, dressed as an ordinary monk or pilgrim, enters a small village and Retail Listens to two gossipy clothsellers discuss a local man, Antonio, who has become so poor he is about to sell his three daughters into slavery to pay his taxes. “If only Bishop Nicholas of Myra would hear of this,” says one of the clothsellers. “He would find a way to help this man.” The traveler goes to Antonio’s house, where the tax collector and slave buyer are ready to sign the contract for the first daughter. The traveler persuades them to wait one more day; that night he returns to the house and, with no one watching, throws a bag of gold down the chimney. Next morning, Antonio finds the gold and pays off the tax collector part of what he owes. That night the traveler returns, puts another bag of gold into the chimney and saves the second daughter. The third night, the third daughter catches the traveler preparing to toss in a third bag of gold; the family awakes and the traveler is revealed as Bishop Nicholas, who tours the country giving his family’s wealth to the needy. Before he leaves town, Nicholas cautions Antonio and his daughters to tell no one of his generosity; however, he has been overheard by one of the gossipy clothsellers who immediately begins repeating the tale of Nicholas the gift-giver.
9. Let Us Go, O Shepherds. Manuel, a shepherd boy in New Mexico during the early 1700s, is sternly ordered by his master to find a missing lamb — or not come back at all. Wandering through the chilly desert night, Manuel meets an old man who asks him for a blanket; Manuel gives it to him. He meets an old woman who asks him for food; Manuel gives her his last tortilla. Now cold and hungry, Manuel meets a young man; Manuel immediately protests that he has nothing left to give. The young man says it is now Manuel’s turn to receive and points toward a large cactus that shelters a man, woman and newborn infant — the Holy Family. Manuel pays homage to them, receives the baby Jesus’ blessing and returns to his master and the other shepherds, who berate him for not finding the missing lamb. Manuel replies, “I have found the lamb — Jesus, the Lamb of God. Come, and you will see.” They follow Manuel into the night.
10. Bring a Torch Jeannette, Isabella. A village in Provence, France, 1676. 11-year-old Camille is upset because she cannot attend the grand Christmas Eve ball — she and her 10-year-old twin sisters (Jeannette and Isabella) have been left in charge of running the family inn while their widowed mother goes to the next village to care for a sick friend. Camille is especially annoyed at two new arrivals, a young husband and pregnant wife, who are causing her even more work; at midnight, however, she hears strange noises from the outside loft and discovers the barn animals kneeling before the mother and her newborn baby — Jesus.
11. We Three Kings of Orient Are. One December night, during the reign of Caesar Augustus, a peculiarly bright star rises in the East and is noticed by three kings: Balthasar of Ethiopia, Melchior of Arabia, Gaspar of Tarsus. Each king is troubled by the warlike state of the world and believes the strange natural phenomenon portends the arrival of a Messiah who will rescue the human race from itself. The kings set out on their journeys bearing expensive gifts; following the star, they meet on the road to Bethlehem where they encounter a blind man suddenly cured who relates other recent miracles and a Roman centurion who has cast down his sword and tells of other soldiers who refuse to fight. Expecting a great and glorious royal figure like themselves, the three kings are guided by a shepherd to a crude stable on the outskirts of town and are astonished when they behold the baby Jesus. They offer their gifts and realize that true power comes not from military might or wealth but from purity of heart.
12. Go Tell It on the Mountain. The year of our Lord 1898, deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains of north Georgia. In the hamlet of Mistletoe, everything is divided down the middle; even the town’s official Christmas tree is decorated in fenced-off halves by the Cooper and Calloway families, who have been feuding for generations. On Christmas Eve, the tree mysteriously burns, and each faction accuses the other. A strange man with a harmonica who speaks only in song and Bible verses appears in town, and rumors run wild: is he a minstrel show entertainer, a wandering gunslinger — or maybe the Messiah? Next morning, the town awakes and finds the stranger gone and the tree miraculously restored, unblemished and fully ornamented; the last words the stranger said are stuck on the tree, written out as a gospel song, Go Tell It on the Mountain.