Looking like a chrèche come to life, St. Robert Bellarmine kindergarten students Monday reenacted the nativity story, part of the Catholic school's annual Advent season celebration.
The performance, "Once Upon a Christmas," interspersed with religious and secular songs, drew dozens of parents and grandparents to the school's auditorium.
"We look forward to this every year," Principal June Rosena said.
Two dozen children, and a handful of good-humored parents, dressed as shepherds, angels and wise men, as well as Mary and Joseph, to retell the story of the birth of Jesus Christ.
It was a performance that will be staged repeatedly at schools and churches around the world as Christians prepare for Christmas Day, which they recognize as Christ's birthday.
At St. Robert Bellarmine, the Christmas show is a 10-year tradition. Led by kindergarten teachers Wyomi Fernando and Debbie Mariscal, students and parents spend weeks rehearsing lines and preparing costumes, including a pair of spotlight-stealing shaggy white coats and caps worn by the "sheep."
The performers retraced the steps of Mary and Joseph on their journey to Bethlehem, and the gifts bestowed on the newborn child by the visitors they received at the stable at the inn.
Acting out the nativity story helps young children to take an active role in the celebration, and it teaches them about the sacred nature of family, Rosena said.
"It is a way for our children to understand what Christmas is all about," Rosena said.
It also helps to shift the focus of the season away from shopping malls, Mariscal said.
"We emphasize that it is Jesus' birthday, so we talk a lot about gifts we can give to Jesus — love, helpfulness," Mariscal said.