It was nearly 10 years ago when Clifton resident Bonnie Fite and her children were first struck by inspiration while trying to remember the words to the classic Christmas carol, "The 12 Days of Christmas."
Stuck on a portion of the lyrics, the Fite family decided to try and find new lyrics, focusing together on the story of the nativity.
"We knew that this is probably the most reworked carol in all of Christmas, so we knew it had to be original and interesting for people if it were going to stand out," Fite said.
What started out as a game to pass the time while driving during the holidays would eventually materialize itself in the shape of more than 50 Burke-area children performing a full musical for their parents, fellow parishioners and community.
"The New 12 Days of Christmas," a children’s musical that builds on the classic holiday carol by telling the story of the Christian nativity, will be performed free at Burke Community Church Dec. 9, the south lawn of the White House on Dec. 11 and Tysons Corner Mall on Dec. 14.
BASED ON THE children’s book of the same name written by Fite that was published in 2001, the musical looks to present the original Christmas story in a modern and entertaining way, said Fite, who both authored the book and is directing the performance.
"There are some people who are very familiar with the Christmas story and they might think there’s not much to learn," she said. "At the same time, there are some who might not know the Christmas story and think they won’t be interested in it.
"So the musical is great for just about everybody because it has a very broad base. It’s fresh, it’s fun and you can really learn a lot from it."
The musical tells the story of a young brother and sister who are spending their Christmas holiday playing video games and talking about the upcoming holiday. But when the two find a copy of the "New 12 Days of Christmas" they are pulled into the story of the first Christmas told through different characters surrounding the nativity.
Each of the 12 days features a choir performance of a different classic Christmas carol that applies to that day, said Fite.
WITH CHILDREN performing the original musical, the message is often amplified and presented in ways that cannot be achieved in adult performances, according to Fite, who is a member of the non-denominational Christian Burke Community Church.
For Springfield resident and Burke Community Church parishioner Michelle Brantley, the musical is an opportunity for children to participate in a holiday activity while spreading the original story of Christmas among themselves and their families. Brantley’s son Tyler is one of the more than 50 children performing in the musical this year.
"It’s the chance for children to not only learn, but also to share the story of Christ through performance," Brantley said. "It’s really something that the church can do for the families but also to reach out to the community during this time of year."
Reaching out to the community with the story of the first Christmas, and doing that through an original children’s musical, is a great source of pride for Burke Community Church, said executive pastor Mark Green.
"Christmas, by definition, has the word ‘Christ’ in it, and we’re happy to spread that message," said Green. "We love what they’re doing by taking that message and presenting it in a way that is fun for those that come."
THE FRESH and original quality of the homespun story has most impressed Charlotte Frederick, an Oakton mother, Burke Community Church member and former teacher. Frederick’s 12-year-old daughter Anna is in the musical’s choir.
"It’s a song that we’ve known all our lives," Frederick said. "But when you see it with this message, the play is very meaningful, especially at this time of year."
The musical can be a welcome reprieve from the busy holiday season particularly in light of its message of selflessness and the value of giving, said Brantley.
"I think sometimes we get overwhelmed from the start of the Christmas season and we can easily can get caught up in that," she said. "We forget the Christmas spirit and forget that this is a message that we should really be reminded of all year long.
"Seeing this message is just a great reminder of the true meaning of Christmas."