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The Spitalfields Nativity Parade

December 19, 2018
by the gentle author

Today is the annual Spitalfields Nativity Parade down Brick Lane around 11:30am this morning

There is no doubt whatsoever that the Christmas season has arrived in Spitalfields when a procession of characters from the nativity story advances up Brick Lane accompanied by all the pupils of Christ Church School singing carols.

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, 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 invaded the adult workaday world, as harbingers of the approaching festive season – they had come to remind everyone that very soon 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 © Estate of Colin O’Brien

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14 Responses leave one →
  1. December 19, 2018

    Wonderful! And Mary with a crash helmet is priceless. Valerie

  2. Kate permalink
    December 19, 2018

    How lovely! Thank you for a year of fascinating emails. Merry Christmas.
    Kate

  3. mlaiuppa permalink
    December 19, 2018

    Bayleaf looked to be having a really good time.

    Happiness to all this season.

  4. Ron Pummell permalink
    December 19, 2018

    Nice subject.

    My Best Wishes Mr G A. Thank you for your work on this site over the years.

  5. Anne Myserian permalink
    December 19, 2018

    I love this!

  6. December 19, 2018

    The Children take this Procession very seriously and have so much fun. Very expressive is the Angel!

    A very happy Christmas time to you all!

    Love & Peace
    ACHIM

  7. December 19, 2018

    There are MANY mornings when I am thankful for Spitalfields Life — but this morning is even more special, due to this wonderfully optimistic and heart-warming story. What an amazing procession!

    Thank for spreading the word, today, and throughout the year.
    Consider me a grateful reader. Happy Holidays to all!

  8. Pence permalink
    December 19, 2018

    What a wonderful angel.
    Thank you for this spot of much needed cheer.

  9. Joni D Sackett permalink
    December 19, 2018

    This is so marvelous.

  10. Saba permalink
    December 20, 2018

    I find hope in the existence of this parade, so small but so important.

  11. Amanda permalink
    December 20, 2018

    The GA has a magical gift for capturing & portraying such good cheer.
    l agree with everyone’s comments – wonderful procession of children proudly dressed in their costumes led by an equally proud Bayleaf backed up by Singing Piggy’s accompaniment joining in with the carols.
    And the star has to be Angel Janzaib.
    Really special.

  12. Ken permalink
    December 20, 2018

    Good to see that the CoE school is thriving and that this event is apparently multi-faith – after all the Nativity story is in the Koran.

  13. Venetia permalink
    December 21, 2018

    The kids look like they really enjoyed this. What fun!

  14. Sheppard permalink
    December 22, 2018

    Every year I wait for this. long time reader and lover of your blog. Thank you for this and Happy Christmas…from Virginia, USA

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