The forerunner to this pageant began in the early 1920’s when a small group began singing Christmas carols in Capitol Square. The first pageant was presented in 1924 on the steps of the State Capitol building. The crowds attending grew so large it was necessary to move it to a different spot and a stage was built over the fountain at the foot of the hill.
“Here the Nativity Pageant was presented under the stars with the thousands of spectators standing on the hillside above. Amplifiers brought the music and voices of the Pageant to every person in the huge audience.” - Richmond News Leader, December 19, 1943
The Nativity Pageant was not held in 1943-1945 due to World War II. Beginning in 1946 the pageant was moved to the Carillon in Byrd Park. In 2017 the production went into hiatus due to construction on the Carillon. The event will be presenting in a new site this year, the Scottish Rite Temple on Hermitage Road.
From its beginning, until 1986, The Nativity Pageant was sponsored by the Parks and Recreation Department of the City of Richmond. Their support was discontinued in that year due to concern over a potential conflict concerning church and state.
In February 1987, a 15-member tax-exempt non-profit corporate board, the Richmond Nativity Pageant Advisory Committee, was established to ensure that this seasonal blessing to thousands of Richmond area families would continue.
The Richmond Nativity Pageant has a cast and choir of approximately 200 participants consisting of many Richmond families who have taken part in this interdenominational, interracial pageant for years. Many persons return to Richmond each Christmas to participate in the 30-minute pageant because, “in Richmond, it wouldn’t be Christmas without the Nativity.”
Although this pageant is presented free to the viewing public, it currently costs approximately $15,000 annually to produce. The financial support from interested businesses, religious organizations, and individuals makes possible the continuation of the wonderful Christmas tradition.
If you would like to make a tax-deductible contribution in support of the Nativity Pageant, make your check out to ‘Richmond Nativity Endowment Fund’ and mail to P.O. Box 6267, Richmond, VA 23230-0267.
If you would like to be a member of next year’s Nativity Pageant cast or choir, please contact Paige Quilter, Pageant Director.