Competitive Britons send nativity costs soaring

LONDON Thu Dec 3, 2009 2:45pm EST

A child touches a statue of Baby Jesus in the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem December 25, 2006. REUTERS/Nayef Hashlamoun

A child touches a statue of Baby Jesus in the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem December 25, 2006.

Credit: Reuters/Nayef Hashlamoun

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Gone are the days of shepherds in tea towels and tinsel-clad angels. Britain's competitive parents are forking out on luxury pashmina shawls and velour dressing gowns to make their child the star of the annual nativity play.

The rise in so-called "manger chic" has seen parents spend up to 150 pounds ($250) on arctic fur throws for children cast as sheep and ivory bridesmaid dresses for angels, according to department stores group Debenhams.

"The amount of money that some parents want to spend on their child's nativity play appearance would enable Baby Jesus to leave the stable and check into a five star hotel," said spokesman Ed Watson.

Intense competition for places at good schools, concern about the future state of the jobs market and a drop in handcraft skills like sewing among time-pressed parents appears to be to blame.

But Debenhams is keen not to encourage the trend.

"While we applaud parents for wanting to do their very best for their children, we feel certain that the story of The Nativity can still be told using very simple materials," Watson said.

(Reporting by Mark Potter, editing by Paul Casciato)

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