December 10, 2017 // Local

Family tradition brings Nativity story alive for children

Pat and Susan Landrigan wanted their children to always remember the true meaning of Christmas.  Recognizing that it is easy to get caught up in the gifts, lights and all that comes with the holiday, they wanted to do something different. Their idea was to start hosting a family performance of the Nativity on Christmas Eve.

“Pat and Susan started having a big, fancy Christmas dinner every Christmas Eve with their children and in-laws,” said Jessica Landrigan of Fort Wayne. Her husband, Matthew, is the grandson of Pat and Susan. 

Fast forward 30 years and this family has grown to include around 50 cousins who are all getting married and having their own children. 

“Christmas is now celebrated with immediate family members,” said Jessica. “We are the second generation to act out the Nativity with our own little family. This includes Matt’s parents, Dan and Linda Landrigan, and their kids, in-laws, and grandchildren.”

Continuing the tradition set by his parents, Dan Landrigan and his wife now host the event for his children and their families.

“We all get dressed up and have a candle-lit dinner,” said Jessica. “After dessert, we help the kids get changed and they act out the Nativity.”

The Landrigans feel it’s a great way to have all involved, especially the younger children, understand the true reason for the season in a more intimate way. All the kids work together for the performance, remembering why they are celebrating and thus accomplishing the original goal set years ago by Pat and Susan Landrigan.

“We have found with our kids that they remember people and details from the night Jesus was born in a much more tangible way, because they play the people, themselves,” said Jessica. “Children have such an innocent way they see the world, and it’s such a blessing to see how they act out the Nativity and how much they love Jesus.”

Every child is given a part in the Nativity.

“I like it most when I’m an angel, because I get to be shiny and wear wings,” said 5-year-old Olivia Landrigan.

For this year’s performance, 20 cousins ages 11 years down to 1 month will participate.

Dan and Lynda’s number of grandchildren climbs each year. On average, two or three children are added to their family between performances.

“Whoever is youngest at the time is Jesus. We’ve always had a live baby Jesus!” said Jessica.

Using a Golden Book story of the Nativity that is biblically correct and told in a language the kids can easily understand, the story is read while the children act it out, each according to his roll.

In previous years, uncles Ben or John Landrigan would lead the event. However, the oldest grandchild, Henry Landrigan, who is 11, was promoted to narrator last year.

“I like narrating, and I love watching my siblings and cousins act out the parts I read about,” said Henry.

Other than the narrator, the children do not speak any lines; they simply show the audience the story through action, following the narrator’s words. All wear homemade costumes.

“I look forward to this,” said 9-year-old John Paul Landrigan. “I like to make the costumes and put them on, and I like acting it out with my cousins.”

Once the performance starts, the mood is serious, and one of remembrance, despite the children’s excitement.

“There are a lot of little kids, and almost every year something funny or really cute happens. We take it all in stride,” said Jessica. “It’s always a beautiful way the kids can honor Jesus’ birthday. It makes my heart happy to see our faith being passed on to the next generation in such a fun way!”

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