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Nativity Plays and the Costumes Used in Them

Updated on August 25, 2015

Nativity Story

One of the most popular events during the Christmas season is the re-enactment of the birth of the Messiah and Savior Jesus Christ, where people dress up in costumes as the various characters involved in the historical event, and put on a wonderful show for everyone to appreciate and enjoy.

This is done in a couple of ways. There are plays put on with adults telling the story. Some of these, for those with a big enough budget, can be extraordinary and extravagant. But even the more humble telling of the nativity story is very compelling and touching for those who believe in Jesus Christ.

The other way the story is told is by children, where it is part of passing on the traditions of the story to them, along with giving a way to interject themselves into the event, making it more memorable and meaningful to them. Of course parents and grandparents love to watch these plays, and many of them get quite a laugh from some of the way the children participate in the story, because there are always some little gaffes which provide for some light and funny moments.

Some of the characters involved with the story, which require costumes to portray them, are Mary the mother of Jesus, Joseph, shepherds, Wise men, angels, and a variety of animals to watch the scene of Jesus being born in the manger.

Among the animal costumes are donkeys, camels, sheep and cows. Together they all make quite a scene for everyone involved.

At times there are even those that dress up as the star of Bethlehem to remind everyone of the fact the wise men were guided to the place where they could find the baby Jesus.

Children in Nativity Scene

Three Wise Men

We'll start off with a look at the adult costumes used in the telling of the nativity story, and that means taking a look at Mary and Joseph first.

These historical figures were humble in real life, and usually a costume reflects that reality.

While that's true, there is always a sense of quality and holiness surrounding Mary, and that is reflected in beautiful costumes which can be stunning in what is attempted to be portrayed.

For Joseph, he is usually represented in clothing depicting a working carpenter. His clothes would also reflect who he was.

Three Wise Men Costumes from Nativity

One of the more interesting stories of the historical event of the nativity is that of the three wise men. Interestingly, it is now thought that they in fact weren't at the manger where and when Christ was born, but actually were guided by the Star to find him a little later in His life.

Don't let that throw you off though, as the principle still remains the same, and it's unlikely that the nativity plays will change any of that part of the story, and it really doesn't matter that much because it's still true that they came and did exactly what is portrayed in the narrative in the sense of worshipping Him and offering Him the gifts they had with them.

As for the wise men costumes, concerning design, they're among the more quality ones of those connected to the Christ child, as they were men of means, as evidenced by the gifts they offered Mary and Joseph on behalf of Jesus. So costume designers always have them looking well dressed as a result of that assumption.

Nativity Adult Shepherd Costumes

The story of the nativity includes the wonderful interaction between the lowly shepherds and the angels of heaven, who came to them announced the birth of the savior.

So having some shepherds in a play is a must, and it's always nice to see those wearing the costumes of the shepherds carrying their shepherd's hook around.

Adult Angel Nativity Costumes

Angels played a big role in the heralding of the arrival of the Savior and Messiah Jesus Christ to the world, and so having some in a play depicting the wondrous story is a must.

While most people won't care in general, the truth is the angels of that day appeared in the form of males, but in our day the image of angels have gravitated almost exclusively towards the female image.

For the story it's not that significant, and angel costumes tend to give a look of beings with wings, which for a nativity play would be designed in a way we tend to imagine them.

Some do it more with flowing robes and dazzling colors, but in most cases that's not in the budget of those putting on the play, and somehow I have seen angel costumes being more in line with how Hollywood portrays the story.

Either way, angels are a big part of the nativity story, and dressing up as one would be a lot of fun.

Adult Nativity Animal Costumes

Next in the Nativity story is an assumed diverse group of animals, all of which are individually associated with the nativity, although most of that is based upon educated guesses rather than reality.

Even so, being a manger, it's highly likely most of the animals associated with the birth of Christ, including the cow, sheep, donkey and camel were located in the area, whether or not they were actually present when Christ was born.

Now what's interesting about nativity plays put on by adults, is many times they include some type of live animals at the play, so many times the need for animal costumes aren't part of the show.

But there are those that don't involve live animals because of the problems that can arise from using them, so animal costumes are used as a good alternative.

There are a wide variety of the animal costumes used as part of the nativity story, and my favorite by far is the camel, and is great for those who like to wear something with more than one person. In those cases its usually a two-humped camel, with each person being one of the humps.

Joseph and Mary Nativity Costumes for Children

Now we'll get into the nativity costumes used by children in plays, and of course as with everything related to children and costumes, cute is what all of us will see. How many times have we been to nativity plays and experienced the funny and sometimes, hilarious mistakes children make while performing. Add to that the cute costumes these little people wear, and it all adds up to a great time.

That doesn't mean the costumes aren't quality of course, just that on children, when they're playing adults, it always includes a humorous side to it because of how they look in their little bodies.

Similar to the adult Joseph and Mary costumes, the Mary costumes can have a sense of wonder to them, while the Joseph costume is more ordinary and moderate. They look great together, yet the story centers around the delivery of the Savior of mankind, so in this case Joseph does and did take the back seat in that part of the story.

Nativity Poll on Favorite Costume

What's Your Favorite Nativity Costume?

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Nativity Costumes of Three Wise Men for Children

It's always very enjoyable to see the children dress up in any costume related to the nativity story, but for me, I seem to like the three wise men the best.

I'm not sure exactly why, but dressed in these nice costumes may be the underlying factor, as it seems I get the biggest chuckle out of those than any other costume. I think the biggest disconnect between children and adults is expressed through the costumes of the three wise men, so that is probably why they're so humorous and delightful to look at.

That's not to say these costumes aren't great looking though; they can be outstanding, and any one would be proud to be seen dressed up as a wise man wearing costumes.

Shepherd Nativity Costume

Shepherd Nativity Costumes for Children

Shepherd costumes are always really great looking on children. The head wear I think is one of those reasons, as you see the band holding back the piece to create that unique look. And of course with a smiling child wearing that part of the costume, it's hard not to give out a laugh as you see them performing their lines for the nativity play.

After all, what's not to like about the overall shepherd costume, shepherd's hook, and a pair of desert sandals? It's as cool as you get for that age in relationship to a play.

Nativity Angel Costumes for Children

Little does more to generate smiles from parents and grandparents when watching a nativity play then one of their children or grandchildren come out as an angel to herald the news that the Savior had arrived in the world.

Of course many of us are focused more on the messenger than the message at that point, as the unfairly cute children make their announcements in extraordinary angel costumes.

It doesn't get much better than that, and what fantastic opportunities there are to capture those moments in time with a bunch of photos or videos.

Nativity Animal Costumes for Children

As mentioned earlier a group of animals was assumed to have surrounded the Savior at and about His birth, and as always, children look adorable in these types of costumes, making one wonder which one of the many costume options for the nativity would be the best one to see them in.

Of course some get lines to say in the play, while the watching animals would only have the part of viewing the extraordinary event. But in the end, it's the experience and memories of this wonderful opportunity to participate in a nativity play that lingers with a child, or even with an adult, who has the honor of playing role in a nativity production.

To that end, most of us who have had that experience have fond memories of our part in the Nativity play.

For animal costumes, many may prefer to wear one of these rather than their human counterparts, as they are definitely cool looking, and for the shy child, standing still in a costume and not having too much responsibility is what they may prefer to do.

Whatever the reason, children could do a lot worse than having to dress up as an animal viewing a re-enactment of the birth of Jesus Christ.

Nativity Costumes for Plays and Theater

It wouldn't be surprising, when measured by the number of plays that are performed in all places around the world, if the nativity is the number one story told.

The story never grows old, and new generations come up that want to experience being part of that telling through acting it out.

So whether adults or children, it's always a terrific experience to have a part in a nativity play, and as you can see from thee costumes above, actors can look very period to the story.

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