The cast including shepherds, angels, wise persons and citizens. PHOTO: Dan Davidson

 

What would Christmas Eve be without carols and a pageant. All are invited—shepherds, angels, wise persons, citizens, family and friends—to St. Paul’s Anglican Church

A traditional Christmas Eve in Dawson City begins with an ecumenical carol and pageant service at St. Paul’s Anglican Church, located there simply because it is the largest of the available church buildings and can hold the most people. By that evening, there will have been open-house-style community events in both St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church and the Dawson Community Chapel.

The Community Christmas Choir started practising its anthems a month earlier. They will be leading all the other singing, but have two solo pieces to prepare.

The participating clergy will have met several times to decide who is doing what during the service. Traditionally, delivering the sermon will have been assigned to whomever is the newest officiant to arrive in town.

The centrepiece of the evening is the Nativity Pageant, which takes the form of a slide show, punctuated by carols.

Many years ago, this was a live event, which was a bit tricky when the preheated building would cool to the point of frosty breath filling the air within about 45 minutes. That fact prompted the beginning of having the pageant actually be a slide show, the pictures shot to illustrate a script, and then somewhat adjusted to work in some Dawson themes. Sometimes shepherds became miners, and citizens travelling to be taxed, by order of the Empire, became tourists.

Other times, the organizers simply varied the settings for the traditional story, using the town’s iconic buildings as backdrops.

This year, pageant director Betty Davidson decided to use the buildings along King Street, Second Avenue and Front Street, as the settings. So, on October 27, the volunteers—children, parents, photographers and other helpers—gathered at the Yukon Order of Pioneers Hall, as a base of operations, and fanned out from there, changing costumes and props as needed during the next two hours.

When all this started, over 20 years ago, it was real film being used, and we had to wait for the slides to come back from the developer to find out what we had to use. Then it took two slide projectors to get the best transitions when projecting the show.

Digital cameras became commonplace, with the new century, and PowerPoint productions replaced the cumbersome setups of the past.

The service still takes about an hour to run through, but thanks to several renovation projects at St. Paul’s, including a new wood stove, two oil-fired monitor heaters and, most recently, a new and insulated roof, rushing is not as necessary as it used to be.

Later in the evening, the churches have their individual celebrations, but this is one service where they all get together.