At The Spitalfields Nativity Procession
There was no doubt whatsoever that the Christmas season had arrived in Spitalfields last week when a procession of characters from the nativity story advanced up Brick Lane accompanied by all the pupils of Christ Church School singing carols. Contributing Photographer Colin O’Brien & I arrived at the school just as the final preparations were taking place.
In the hallway, school governors, members of the parent-teachers’ association and any other adults that could be recruited were changing into colourful biblical costumes. They were joined by the pupils, some of whom had been assigned specific roles in the drama and other who had opted for generic nativity outfits. Once we were all gathered in the yard at the front of the school, there was just time for a group photo before the unlikely procession set off up Brick Lane, singing carols enthusiastically to dispel the grim atmosphere of damp and cold.
The curry touts were astonished by this unexpected demonstration of seasonal goodwill and resisted their natural impulse to offer meal deals and free beers to Mary & Joseph, on the their way to Bethlehem via Brick Lane. In fact, the first destination was the Spitalfields City Farm where the holy couple were to acquire a donkey for Mary to ride on their journey. Although legend has it that farm animals gain the power of speech on Christmas Eve, the pig at the City Farm grew impatient and joined in loudly with the carol-singing last week, much to the delight of the school children.
After readings telling the nativity story and more carols, and once Mary had put on her safety helmet and was securely mounted upon Bayleaf the donkey, we were all set to continue on our Christmas pilgrimage around Spitalfields. The attenuated procession stretched the length of Allen Gardens, offering great amusement to passengers on the East London Line gawping in delight from the train windows as they sped by.
We crossed Brick Lane again and followed the perimeter wall of the Truman Brewery to emerge onto Commercial St. Passing along the side of Spitalfields Market down Lamb St, the procession entered Bishop’s Sq just as it was thronging with office workers at lunchtime. The line of singing children led by a donkey had come to invade the adult workaday world, as harbingers of the approaching festive season – they had come to remind everyone that in less than two weeks everything must stop for Christmas.
The procession assembles at Christ Church School
Advancing up Brick Lane
Arriving at the Spitalfields City Farm
Jasmin as Mary, with Mhairi from Spitalfields City Farm and Bayleaf the donkey
Mary-Jane played the drum with Eleanor on accordion
Hamza, Josh and Kevin as the three kings
Setting out from the farm
Joseph & Mary advancing along Buxton St
Janzaib as the angel
Photographs copyright Colin O’Brien
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