The Pageant of the Nativity – a tradition in its 93rd year at First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church in Portland – continued on Sunday, with more than 50 cast members re-creating a live Nativity scene.

The scene slowly unfolded as cast members dressed as shepherds, angels, Mary, Joseph and others from the biblical story silently proceeded to the front of the church. A narrator told the story to nearly 400 people attending the pageant. The congregation sang several songs, including “Silent Night” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”

Some of the cast members have participated in the pageant for decades, but for Ginny Weill, it was her first time portraying Mary. Weill, 34, said she grew up in the church, and played one of the “heavenly hosts” as a child.

“I’m honored to be part of such as tradition,” Weill said before the pageant. “I’m nervous. It’s my first time being Mary. It’s a lot of pressure.”

According to the parish’s official history, the story of the Nativity “is told in music and readings while the cast, bit by bit creates a tableau” that replicates a painting by Fra Angelico, an Italian artist of the Early Renaissance. “Some of the costumes have been created from fabrics brought back” from the Holy Land by nieces of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in the 1920s.

Written by the Rev. Vincent Silliman, minister of the Congress Street church from 1926 to 1938, the pageant has been presented virtually unchanged every Christmas season for nine decades.

Staff photographer Brianna Soukup contributed to this report.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: