The Calgary Nativity Pageant began as a Canada Calgary Mission project on the grounds of the mission home in 1964, under the direction of then-mission Pres. Carlos Smith. The pageant has become a continuous annual tradition since that time. It has grown into a city and area event to celebrate the Christmas season for many citizens of Calgary, both member and non-member.

The story of Christ's birth is portrayed in silent action, with actors, a donkey and three sheep. The text from Luke is narrated over a loudspeaker, with prelude, interlude and background music by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Many of the appropriate Christmas carols are sung.Following the performance, a painting of Christ is portrayed on a large screen, and visitors are invited to accept a copy of an artist's rendering of Christ as a free gift from the Church. About 3,500 prints are distributed annually.

The pageant presentation takes 10 minutes; after a five-minute interval, it is repeated. Presentations last from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. each evening from Dec. 18 through Dec. 25. Each night begins in the staff trailer with a spiritual message, prayer and instructions.

A cast of 17 - Mary, Joseph, stable boy, innkeeper, seven shepherds, three angels, three wise men - is needed for each presentation. A double cast is available each night. Cold weather, fatigue and illness dictate whether the back-up cast is used. All those who come to the November rehearsals are given the opportunity to be on stage.

A support staff of directors, costume dressers, makeup personnel, animal care givers, parking attendants and security allows 20 or more volunteers to be involved each night. Twenty-four-hour security is provided by the various wards of the host stake.

The pageant proceeds in all types of weather. The unpredictable Calgary climate may deliver show-time temperatures as a high as 40 degrees F. or as low as 10 degrees below zero. Warm winter-layered clothing and costumes, and heaters in strategic places, allow the pageant to go on.

Attendance averages 18,000 to 22,000 per season, with about 35 percent coming from the local LDS community of 14,000 members.

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There is considerable community and media interest in the pageant. It is presented to the Alberta government public employees and the premier of Alberta in early December and receives public attention at that time.

The hillside site, part of the Heritage Park on Glenmore Lake in south Calgary, is provided by Heritage Park and the City Parks and Recreation Department. Several local merchants donate supplies and services.

Several non-members have participated in the pageant, and there are at least three and probably more convert baptisms directly related to the pageant.

Jack the donkey, having been with the pageant 25 years, is boarded at Church members' acreages through the year. He likes people and is a favorite petting item for the children. He looks forlorn and brays when he doesn't receive his expected attention or portion of sweet grain after performing.

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