The Christmas Quartet by Andrew Beattie

Approximate running time of each of the four plays is 15 minutes (60 minutes if all four plays are performed.)

These plays are a retelling of the history behind four well-known Christmas songs and carols. The fact that they require no scenery makes them perfect for performing in churches as well as schools.

Each of the plays is about the story behind a famous Christmas carol or song.

Dashing through the Snow – the Story of Jingle Bells (Cast is 9 speaking parts, some possibility of chorus at the end but not essential)

Deep and Crisp and Even – the Legend of Good King Wenceslas ( Cast is 7 speaking parts. No chorus needed.)

Following Yonder Star – the Story of We Three Kings of Orient Are (Cast is 6 speaking parts and 10 chorus – but the chorus could be less)

All is Calm, All is Bright – the Story of Silent Night ( Cast is 8 speaking parts, chorus would be useful)

As with all our plays, there are full production notes that give advice on scenery, costumes and props.


Here’s a sample

DASHING THROUGH THE SNOW: the Story of Jingle BellsBackground to the Play and the Carol

Jingle Bells was written by church minister James Lord Pierpont (1822–1893) and published under the title One Horse Open Sleigh in the autumn of 1857. It is an unsettled question where and when Pierpont originally composed Jingle Bells: both Medford, a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts, and Savannah, Georgia, claim that the song was composed there. There is also a dispute about the purpose of its composition, with some suggesting that it was originally written to be sung by a Sunday school choir at Thanksgiving. However, Dashing Through the Snow assumes that the song was written by Pierpont at the Simpson Tavern in Medford and was inspired by the town’s popular annual Christmas sleigh races – a legend supported to this day by the town’s historical association, who have erected a plaque outside the Simpson Tavern recounting the story. It must be noted that the play’s central narrative – involving the proposed cancelling of the races – has been invented for dramatic purposes, and there is no suggestion that this ever happened.


The Legend of Good King Wenceslas

Background to the Play and the Carol

Good King Wenceslas tells the story of a Bohemian king braving harsh winter weather to give alms to a poor peasant “on the Feast of Stephen” – St Stephen’s Day (December 26th). The king’s page boy accompanies him as he journeys towards the peasant’s home. The boy finds it hard to struggle through the snow and is about to give up; but the king tells the boy that it will be easier for him if he treads in the footprints that he has already made, and the boy is able to continue. The figure at the centre of this legend is a tenth century ruler of Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic) known to English speakers as Wenceslas I (other versions of his name include Wenceslaus, Venceslav and Václav). Wenceslas was known for his piety, though during his lifetime he was a duke, not a king. However, after his death, Holy Roman Emperor Otto I conferred on him the “regal dignity and title” of king – hence Good King Wenceslas.

FOLLOWING YONDER STAR ; the story oif We Three Kings of Orient Are

Background to the Play and the Carol

We Three Kings was written in 1857 by John Henry Hopkins Jr., the rector of Christ Episcopal Church in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, for a Christmas pageant. Hopkins published the carol in 1863 in his book Carols, Hymns, and Songs, and since then it has become one of the most successful of the many carols composed in the United States. The carol centres around the Biblical Magi (the “three wise men”), who visit Jesus as a child after his Nativity and give him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Though the event is recounted in the Gospel of Matthew, there are no further details given in the New Testament with regards to the names of the “wise men”, the number that were present or whether they were even royal. The names of the Magi – Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar – and their status as kings from the Orient are legendary and based on post-Biblical tradition. Following Yonder Star recounts their visit to Bethlehem, making use of the words ascribed to the three kings by the writer of the carol.

ALL IS CALM, ALL IS BRIGHT – the Story of Silent Night

Background to the Play and the Carol

Silent Night (German: Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht) was first performed on Christmas Eve 1818 at St Nicholas Parish Church in the small Austrian town of Oberndorf bei Salzburg. All is Calm, All is Bright tells the story behind the carol’s composition. A young priest, Father Joseph Mohr, had come to Oberndorf the year before. He had already written the lyrics of Stille Nacht and after river flooding damaged the organ of the church in Oberndorf he brought the words to Franz Gruber, schoolmaster and organist in the nearby village of Arnsdorf, and asked him to compose a melody and guitar accompaniment so that the song could be sung at Mass on Christmas Eve. The church was eventually destroyed by repeated flooding and replaced with the Silent-Night-Chapel, which stands on the site today – while Silent Night became one of the most popular Christmas carols ever composed, and in 2011 was declared an “item of intangible cultural heritage” by UNESCO.