CHURCHES across the country will be making final preparations for the annual Nativity service – ensuring the Wise Men have learnt their lines and the fluffy sheep and cows are stacked by the altar to create a cosy stable scene.
But one East Lothian church has a slightly different checklist that includes hay, straw and a packet of Polo mints.
They are so used to being part of the family so I know they will be relaxed with the whole thing. Sometimes they come into our kitchen to get a carrot so they are used to being inside.Katie Campbell
For the Holy Trinity Church in Haddington has decided to invite some real animals to take part in its Nativity stable scene to give it a more authentic feel this Christmas.
Enter stage right two miniature Shetland ponies, Angus and Freddie, who will make sure that Mary makes it to Bethlehem in style tomorrow night.
The pint-sized pair will be led up the centre of the church as part of the production – before being left to relax in a stable made of hay at the side of the altar.
The Reverend Canon Anne Dyer, rector at the Holy Trinity Church, in Church Street, first thought of producing a Nativity with a difference earlier this year.
“We have always had a real Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus, but I thought it would be lovely to have some real animals in a stable, too,” she said.
“We first thought that donkeys would be good, but then realised we didn’t know any child-friendly donkeys, so the suggestion of miniature Shetlands was made – which we thought was a great idea.”
She is expecting around 150 spectators through her church doors for the Christmas Eve children’s Nativity service.
“I think people will love seeing the ponies – and the children will get really excited,” she said. “We wanted to do something that was even better than Santa that gets across the message of the first-ever Christmas.”
Katie Campbell, nine, from North Berwick, will be leading Freddie through the church.
She said she was delighted to be taking part in the interactive Nativity.
“The ponies are such good fun,” she said. “They are so used to being part of the family so I know they will be relaxed with the whole thing. Sometimes they come into our kitchen to get a carrot so they are used to being inside.”
She added: “I think it’s a great idea to use real animals for a Nativity scene. It makes it more fun and interesting for everyone to watch.”
Anna Thompson, who is looking after the ponies, said she and her daughter, Honor, two, had been giving them some five-star pampering to make sure they were looking their best for the big night.
“We have been brushing the ponies’ manes and tails to make sure they are as silky as possible,” she said.
“I think they are going to look really sweet, and they like being the centre of attention so I’m sure they will relish the chance to have their photos taken.”
She added: “I have another horse at home and he is very jealous not to be taking part – he’s a little large to fit inside the church.”
Once the pair have finished their walk-on part, they will be taken back to their East Lothian home for a big bucket of food as a reward for their thespian efforts.
And in the church, the cleaning up will begin, with the hay stable dismantled, and any calling cards the pair have left scooped up and taken away.
The Rev Dyer added: “We look forward to welcoming everyone to our service.”
• The service is being held at the Holy Trinity Church, Church Street, Haddington, on Christmas Eve from 5pm to 5.30pm. All are welcome. There will also be a collection for the Save the Children Child Refugee Crisis Appeal.