The festive season is a time of joy, merriment, and traditions – much like the theatre experience! In fact, theatre has played a significant role in shaping the festive spirit that surrounds Kirihimete.
Of course, there’s the obvious: biblical stories like the Nativity story have been staged frequently throughout history at religious festivals. The Yuletide also shines bright in the title of one of Shakespeare’s plays, Twelfth Night, which takes its name from the tradition of celebrating the twelfth night of Christmas. While the play isn’t about Christmas, it is often performed at Christmastime or with rich festive themes.
The 19th century marked a golden age for Kirihimete, thanks in large part to the Victorian Era’s enthusiasm for festive celebrations. Charles Dickens, with his timeless classic A Christmas Carol (written in 1843), brought the holiday spirit to the forefront of literary and theatrical culture. The story’s themes of redemption and generosity resonated with audiences, and stage adaptations quickly became a holiday tradition the following year (1844). The Christmas that we are familiar with now owes many of it’s origins to Charles Dickens, who is known as the man who “invented” Christmas!
Charles Dickens himself even used to do a reading of A Christmas Carol at Christmas – according to Wikipedia he did it a whopping 127 times until his death (he was only 58 when he died – so that’s a lot of readings!)
Pantomimes are also a huge favourite to be performed at Christmas time. Derived from the Italian commedia dell’arte, pantomimes often feature fairy-tale characters, slapstick humour, and festive themes, providing families with a lighthearted and magical escape during the holiday season. But, why are pantomimes performed at Christmas? There are a few theories! One is that it harks back to Medieval mummers plays. A mummers play was a traditional folk play performed in masks, often inspired by the tale of Saint George and the Dragon, which involved stage fights, magical creatures and humour. Another past Christmas tradition with links to pantomime’s anarchic and liberating spirit is the Tudor Feast of Fools, which was presided over by the Lord of Misrule. One of the main reasons Panto’s are performed at Kirihimete in modern times is likely because they’re mainly tailored to families and children.
And of course, in the 20th century, new technologies brought Christmas theatre into homes across the globe. Radio plays and TV embraced the theatrical Christmas traditions, and Broadway too! Elf: The Musical, Annie, Billy Elliot, and Rent are all musicals with festive themes.
Today, Kirihimete in the theatre continues to thrive, with both traditional and contemporary productions. We are lucky at The PumpHouse to have the beautiful tradition of Tim Bray Theatre Company’s The Santa Claus Show entertaining and enchanting audiences each year.
So if you feel you are lacking in Christmas cheer, perhaps a visit to your local theatre would do a world of good! We guarantee you’ll feel the warmth of shared entertainment and connection to your community, and leave feelin’ that Christmas joy!