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Nickerson kids celebrate Christmas story

It was a cool Thursday morning when the parents of Jesus Christ arrived at St. Albert Place, accompanied by a small army of angels, kings and sheep.

It was a cool Thursday morning when the parents of Jesus Christ arrived at St. Albert Place, accompanied by a small army of angels, kings and sheep.

"This is the most beautiful inn I've ever seen!" said teacher Thom Sherwin, leading the flock of costumed kids. "I'm fairly confident we'll find a room here."

No such luck, said innkeeper Roy Bedford. "I'm very sorry, but with the census in town, there's no room at the inn."

"Aww …" said the kids.

"Have you tried the St. Albert Inn?" Bedford suggested.

Scenes like this played out throughout downtown St. Albert this week as about 130 students and volunteers from Leo Nickerson Elementary staged a re-enactment of the Christmas story.

Kindergarten to Grade 4 students in the school's Logos religious program dressed as sheep, angels, kings, centurions, shepherds and villagers Thursday morning to march down St. Anne, Perron and St. Thomas streets in search of an inn for Mary and Joseph. They drew a lot of curious looks and grins in the process.

Events like this are a great way to bring more people to downtown, said Bedford, who is also the city's community recreation co-ordinator. "St. Albert is truly accommodating to people, and I'm sure [Mary and Joseph] will find a place somewhere."

An Australian import

The holy host eventually found room at a 'stable' in Grandin mall, where they re-enacted the nativity scene before holding a free public festival with songs, games, balloons and cake.

This was the school's third annual outdoor advent pageant, said Sherwin, a teacher with the Logos program at Nickerson, and was meant to remind students about the true meaning of Christmas. "We seem to have more fun every year."

The pageant was one of many similar events held around the world this week by the Fusion Youth and Community Society, said organizer Paul Robertson. A Christian organization, the group's Canadian branch runs breakfast clubs, youth programs, festivals and fundraisers throughout the Capital region.

Robertson said he founded the Canadian branch a number of years ago along with Gordon Howell, an Edmonton engineer and well-known advocate of renewable energy. "There are many people in west Edmonton for whom life is very challenging," he said, and he saw the Fusion group as a way to help them.

Howell said he learned of the group on a trip to Australia and told Robertson of it on his return.

"We know that sustainability is all about environmental, economic and social capital," he said. Pageants like this, which signal the advent of the Christmas season, give kids positive experiences and help bring communities together.

The meaning of Christmas

Johnson said he hoped the pageant would remind people about the origins of Christmas. "I wonder if the Christmas story isn't one we have lost," he said, noting how nativity scenes have become less common in stores as of late. "Whether you have a Christian background or not, there's something in that Christmas narrative that's beautiful."

A lot of kids think Christmas is all about the presents, said Hanna Peters, the Grade 4 student who played Mary Magdalene in the pageant, but it's really about the birth of Christ. She planned to take part in her church's nativity play this winter to spread that message. "I like doing it to show people the real meaning of Christmas."


Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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