A HAIDA CHRISTMAS

(A play written for, and performed by, Haida children in St. John’s Anglican Church in Old Massett in the mid-1990s. Copyrighted.)

SCENE ONE

Lights out over the audience. Light on central stage. Two boys (or 2 girls) walk onto center stage from door left and stand near the Christmas tree.

1st boy: Are you coming to the Christmas program at our church?

2nd boy: I wouldn’t miss it for anything. It’s the story of giving and I want to make sure I get all the gifts that are coming to me. What do you suppose they’ll give us?

1st boy: Oh, we won’t get presents.

2nd boy: You mean they’re going to talk to our parents and tell them to give us plenty of presents? I’ll make sure my parents come.

1st boy: No, no! You don’t understand at all! We’re going to hear about all the gifts God gave us.

2nd boy: He hasn’t given me anything lately.

1st boy: You’d be surprised. He has been giving gifts since the beginning of time.

2nd boy: I want my gifts right now – and lots of them! I got cheated last year because the fishing was bad, so Dad didn’t make much money. But he got a good catch this year, so I hope he makes it up to me for last year.

1st boy: God has gifts for us right now, too.

2nd boy: Yeah, like what?

1st boy: The gift of His Son can make life better for everyone.

2nd boy: It hasn’t done much for me.

1st boy: But it can.

2nd boy: I don’t know. I think I may as well stay home. I don’t think I’d get anything out of the program.

1st boy: Why don’t you come and see? I promise you’ll get something out of it if you listen.

2nd boy: Well… okay. I don’t have anything else to do anyway.

Boys exit through door right.

CONGREGATIONAL HYMN

Song leaders leads in “Silent Night.” Rear lights on in the sanctuary. Front lights off. Stage hands set up scene during singing.

SCENE TWO

Small “bonfire” (logs attached together and lighted from below with a red light bulb). Five or more boys (representing Haida warriors) sit on floor around the campfire, dressed in traditional clothes (or in shorts). All other lights are off.

1st warrior: It’s really been blowing for days. We must have had the worst storm of this winter.

2nd warrior: Yes, I sure don’t like being stuck on shore. We spent all summer building the best dugout canoe our village has ever had, and now we get stuck on shore for days on end.

3rd warrior: Hey, we shouldn’t complain so much. The Creator knows what He’s doing.

4th warrior: What do you mean? I can’t see any good in these endless winter storms!

3rd warrior: What about all the cockles that were washed ashore by the storm? The Creator really does care about us. We rarely go hungry here on Haida Gwaii.

5th warrior: That’s right! Even winter storms bring us food.

2nd warrior: Well, I still want to get out in the new canoe and see how seaworthy it is. A good long trip is what I wish for.

1st warrior: Well, the storm has died down now. And look how clear the sky is. You can see the countless numbers of stars.

2nd warrior: And it’s really cold. When it gets this clear and cold, it’s usually calm for many days. I wish we had a good excuse to get in the canoe and go somewhere.

3rd warrior: Hey! Look over there!

(Points to stage left. A child dressed in black holds a lighted candle as high in the air as possible and very slowly walks from door left toward left aisle.)

4th warrior: What is it? It looks like a moving star!

5th warrior: Stars don’t move!

1st warrior: Say, don’t you remember the story my Chinny told us once? He said that there is a very old story among our people that someday a special child will be born who will be sent from Salanna, our Creator!

5th warrior: That’s right! And the story says that when the baby is born, a star will lead the people to the baby.

2nd warrior: Look, the star is moving out to sea! I’m going to follow it. Who’s with me?

3rd warrior: I’ll come along!

1st warrior: So will I!

(The three warriors quickly get up, put on their button blankets, pick up paddles, go to the start of the left aisle, pretend to push their canoe into the water, climb in, and “paddle” down the aisle, following the “star.”)

CHILDREN’S CHOIR:

Children’s choir stands at front of center stage, entering from left. While they sing (light on only at back of sanctuary) stage hands remove the campfire. Children representing Mary and Joseph, with a doll for baby Jesus, sit together on the step at center stage. Boys in “canoe” wait at back of center aisle. “Baby” is wrapped in ragged piece of fur.

Choir sings (to the tune of the “Huron Carol”):
‘Twas in the moon of wintertime
When all the birds had fled
That Salanna our Creator
Sent angel choirs instead.
Before their light the stars grew dim
And warriors at sea heard the hymn,
“Jesus, your chief, is born
Jesus is born.
Praise to great Salanna!”

(Choir leaves stage by door right)

SCENE THREE

Lights out, except on small light behind Mary and Joseph. The “star” moves slowly up the center aisle. The warriors in the canoe follow it (they may either continue to paddle, OR may do and sing the paddle dance, accompanied by drums and singers). The “star” stops when it reaches the middle of center stage. The canoeists immediately stop.

2nd warrior: (pointing) Look! The star has gone back to shore and has stopped.

3rd warrior: And listen! What is that I hear?

1st warrior: It sounds like singing! But it’s coming from the sky! And look at the bright light filling the sky.

2nd warrior: I heard the elders speak of the music of the heavens. Could it be the spirits of light singing praises to Salanna?

3rd warrior: Look! The star is moving again. Quick, let’s go ashore and follow the light! (Warriors “land” the “canoe” and climb ashore).

1st warrior: What a barren, rocky shore this is. Who would want to live in a place like this? Surely the parents of a great new chief would be from a noble family and live in a huge longhouse in a big village with a good harbor. The shore would be crowded with totem poles and big canoes.

2nd warrior: And many great chiefs would gather from villages all through Haida Gwaii, and even from the tribes with whom we trade for oolichan grease and other valuables.

1st warrior: But here there is only quietness and dark, and the crash of the waves on the rocky shore. Have we made a mistake in following this star?

(The “star” moves over behind Mary and Joseph and again stands still).

2nd warrior: Look, the star has moved again. Now it’s standing still just over there.

3rd warrior: And there is a hut below it, there, under the trees!

1st warrior: Let’s go and see what’s there!

(The warriors walk over to Mary and Joseph and pretend to stoop low, as if entering through a low doorway).

1st warrior: (in a loud whisper) Look, a man and a woman —

2nd warrior: and a newborn baby — wrapped in a ragged scrap of fur!

3rd warrior: Could this really be the great chief Salanna promised to send?

2nd warrior: It must be! Remember the star —

1st warrior: Yes! And the singing in the sky! This child must be the promised chief that will lead all people to Salanna.

(The three warriors sink to their knees before Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus).

CHILDREN’S CHOIR:

Choir comes in from door left and stands at the front of stage center. They sing:

Within a hut of cedar bark
The tender babe was found.
A ragged robe of tattered fur
Enwrapped his beauty round.
And as the warrior braves drew nigh
The angel song rang loud and high:
“Jesus, your chief, is born.
Jesus is born,
Praise to great Salanna!”

Choir moves to stage right and waits.

1st warrior: (stands up before Mary and Joseph) Here — for the great chief child — my most precious possession — this paddle carved by my great grandfather and presented to me at the end of my coming-of-age rituals.

2nd warrior: (stands, gestures toward the shore) — And this new canoe, from myself and all the people of my village.

3rd warrior: (removes his button blanket) — and this warm blanket, decorated with the symbols of our Haida people.

(All three warriors once again sink to their knees, bowling before the baby. The choir moves back to center stage).

CHILDREN’S CHOIR:

Sing:
The earliest moon of wintertime
Is not so round and fair
As was the ring of glory on
The helpless infant there.
While warriors brave before him bowed
With paddle, canoe, and blanket proud:
“Jesus, your chief, is born.
Jesus is born,
Praise to the great Salanna.”

(Choir members form a wide semi-circle — open at the front — around Mary, Joseph, and the warriors. The “star” uses his candle to light the candle of the first choir member, and so each member’s candle is lit in turn. Stage hands, and all cast members, join the circle.
OPTIONAL: Haida dancers and singers come up the center aisle, doing the chief dance. Dancers join the warriors kneeling before the baby).

The choir sings:
Oh children of the islands free
Oh sons of Salanna.
The Holy Child of earth and heaven
Is born – Hallelujah!
Come kneel before the radiant boy
Who brings you beauty, peace and joy.
“Jesus, your chief, is born.
Jesus is born,
Praise to great Salanna!”

(Choir, dancers, actors remain in their places. Only light is from candles).

Minister stands at pulpit, with a small light. Minister reads the Christmas story from: Luke 2:1-19; Matthew 2:1-11.

CONGREGATIONAL HYMN:

Lights on. Congregation joins in singing “Joy to the World.”

(This play was written by Norma J Hill for the Haida children of the St. John’s Anglican Sunday School in Old Massett, Haida Gwaii, and for their family and community. It belongs to them, and may only be performed with their permission.)

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