PACKED school halls and churches show Ealing’s nativity plays are as popular as ever, despite census results showing a significant drop in Christian belief.

Results revealed that four million fewer people in England and Wales said they would call themselves Christian than in 2001.
Teachers say nativity productions, both traditional and those with a modern twist, still have a place in the borough’s multi-cultural schools.

“The house was packed,” said a spokesman foe Little Ealing Primary School, Weymouth Avenue, adding she had not noticed a decline in enthusiasm for the Christmas production.

She said: “We even had a wild west cowboy-themed nativity play. There was a lot of thigh slapping and yee-has. It was great fun.”

Mark Melluish, Vicar of St Paul’s Church, Ridley Avenue, said he was not aware of a decline in popularity and schools had even asked the church for help in producing their plays.

“We have actually seen a rise in the number of people interested in having a nativity play,” he added.

The Grange Primary School, Church Gardens, puts on their festivities at nearby St Mary’s Church with a choir of 150 children.

Pat Nicolaides, acting assistant head, said: “We have had one or two parents that do not approve, but really it is a very small number.

“Most really enjoy it and we even have some Muslim children reading from the pulpit.”

She added the school recognised its pupils’ cultural diversity by marking all the other major religious events.

The question about religious affiliation in the 2011 census was voluntary, and those identifying themselves as Christian has fallen by 13 per cent in ten years to 59 per cent.

Christianity was the only religious group to experience a fall in numbers, despite a growth in the population.

John Wright, deputy head of Christ the Saviour Church of England Primary School, New Broadway, said: “As a Church of England School, it is the very centre of what we do.

“I believe, as a parent as well, that it's very important children understand what Christmas is actually about.”

By Louise Fitzgerald, Kathryn Snowdon and Jenni Hardwick