After all the bazaars and seasonal open houses are done, and folks are just about ready to settle down at home waiting for Christmas Morning to arrive, there is one more thing that happens for quite a few folks in Dawson.
The various churches will have their own late evening services on December 24, but earlier on Christmas Eve, they all get together at Saint Paul’s Anglican Church for a celebration that includes them all: the Ecumenical Christmas Eve Pageant.
The place is generally packed, with standing room along the outer walls being at a premium.
The pageant itself became a slide show many years ago, back when it took two slide projectors to pull it off. This move was taken back in the days when the pro-cathedral did not have a good heating system and the service itself needed to be over by the time the heat generated from the Herman-Nelson heaters had faded enough that the congregation could see its breath.
The rationale was that the event could proceed much more efficiently if there were no costume changes needed on the actual evening. That, and shuffling pictures around is much easier than shuffling actual costumed children.
These days, with a better wood stove and two monitor heaters, the heat is not a problem, but it’s still more effective to shoot a few hundred slides and pick the ones that will fit a basic nativity script.
Also, computer generated slideshows are so much more convenient than the old slide projectors and slides.
The settings move around from year to year and the themes change to match the settings. Last year’s photo shoot took place at Claim 33 and the Discovery Claim on Bonanza Road. Other years we have used the Dawson City Museum, Saint Paul’s itself and the Commissioner’s Residence next door.
This year, on October 1, the cast, crew, and photographers gathered at the Legion Hall on Third Avenue, and made use the numerous iconic buildings – Madame Tremblay’s, the Old Post Office, the YOOP Hall, the Palace Grand Theatre, and the Legion building itself – near the corner of Third Avenue and King Street, as settings for a Klondike themed Nativity Pageant.
Shooting this late in the fall posed some problems for the photographers, as those long afternoon shadows kept getting in the shots. Sunday afternoon traffic, at what can be a busy intersection, meant that some pictures had to be re-shot, because trucks and SUVs just can’t be morphed into camels and donkeys. But, on the whole, we managed to pull the whole thing together in just about three hours.
The other big part of the service, aside from the usual Bible readings and a short sermon by whichever pulpit incumbent happens to be the latest arrival to town, is the ecumenical choir, which hasn’t started practicing, yet, as I write this column on November 9. It will cram in six or seven practices over the next three weeks, starting on November 18.
The service itself begins at 7:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve, but you’d better arrive early if you want to have a seat.