Running a Nativity trail

Minister warns new tighter lockdown restrictions in the North could be  there 'until after Christmas' – Proper Manchester

This blog was written a year ago. The trail went really well, many families got involved in the planning and hundreds of kids learnt about the nativity. Read more below and get in touch if you have any questions…

There are so many limitations at the moment, Christmas markets, Ice rinks and Santa Grottos are nowhere to be seen. The typical family Christmas dinner and carol services just won’t be happening. Its possible that you may not even get to see your family for the Christmas break. Right now Christmas cheer feels a bit pointless and for so many it seems like Christmas has been cancelled. However the heart of the Christian message is that into our darkness a great light shines…

“The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
    on them has light shone.”
Isaiah 9:2

More than ever we’re called as Christians to be a light to our communities, a porch light to our streets and houses of light to our friends. Even in lockdown we can still exercise, we can still decorate our houses. We can still bring teams of people together to work on a project and create a sense of community even in self-isolation.

I’m not a children’s worker, I’m just a mum that loves her kids and their friends. The context for this blog and idea started a month ago. I’ve never celebrated Halloween but this year I ended up running a Halloween trail and Pumpkin carving competition. Read more of the story here. To promote the trail and Pumpkin carving competition we set up a simple Facebook page called Bitterne Park Family fun. Over half term the page had a reach of 9000 people and the competition had over 200 entries (each person submitted a photo onto our page). We wanted to give back to the community so we promoted local businesses as they generously donated prizes for the competition. We had such good feedback that we’ve decided to do something similar for Christmas. Many friends are running trails across the UK, have a look here to find one near you.

So here are our plans…

Nativity trail reveal

We’re planning a 24 day Nativity trail reveal in December. 24 houses telling a part of the Christmas story, 24 hidden letters to find and spell a sentence. Each house has been given a part of the nativity story and asked to creatively decorate their front garden or windows, telling the story through their decorations. We have a handout and map that we’ll give out to each child for them to write down the hidden letters that they find. Every day in December one house will reveal its decorations. At the last house we’ll be giving out little bags with Christmas Chocolate, a Christmas Tattoo and a little invitation story to find out more.

How to run a trail (all links below)

  1. Get people involved set up a google form to collect details and create a flyer inviting friends to get involved or write a letter to invite your neighbours
  2. Create a trail route we’re imagining families might do the trail every few days through December rather than in one go. Once you know how many people want to be involved create a trail route. The trail could also be adapted to 12 houses or one house. Or it could be that you prefer to create a Window of Hope. I’d love to encourage you to put a table or box on your drive and give away gift bags.
  3. Assign houses give each house a day and a bit of the nativity, encourage them to decorate their house or window in a way that tells the story.
  4. Create a trail map see the one below from Halloween (Christmas one is on its way!), or write a simple list of houses or create your own Google map
  5. Create a trail handout see below (designed by Phil Webb)
  6. Promote your trail through social media
  7. Create gift bags to be given out
  8. Invitational Flyers put a flyer in each bag. I’ve written a story called Lucy and the bird. This is very simple with the aim of raising curiosity, you can add a link to your church social media for more information
  9. Example house for day 12 and 24

Nativity trails can be done in any community or across a city. It could be that a church gets behind this and within the church Christians from different communities run it. Or it could be a group of friends decide to run it. So for example in our city, there will be a trail in Bitterne park, Shirley and the Flowers estate. The trail could also be adapted to have just 12 houses see here or one house, or possibly even a window of Hope instead (see below). I’d love to encourage you to put out a table and give out beautiful gift bags or make up ten and give them out to friends. You can buy Lucy and the Bird flyers and the Handout here.

1. Getting others involved

Before any trail, I put up a post on Facebook and ask if anyone wants to get involved. Its a great way to get to know others and build community.

2. Here is how we’ve allocated each house to a day and a part of the nativity story

3. Create a trail map or a list of houses, here are some examples Swaythling map created by Dan Pooley, Halloween map created by Rachael Samuelson

4. Create a trail handout

5. Promote your trail through social media

6. Create gift bags (Invitational postcard/flyer, clear bag, sweets, Christmas tattoo’s)

7. Invitational flyer – I’ve been writing short stories that raise curiosity about the person of Jesus Christ. This is the front, if you’d like to see how the story ends or buy some of these get in touch or look here), we also have the Alfie story that could be used for Christmas

8. Example House day 12

8. Example window day 24

I’ve written these stories to raise curiosity about the person of Jesus, read the second half of the story here. If you’d like to buy some to give out, please get in touch.

Published by Nay Dawson

Hello and thank you for reading my blog. I'm married to Jon and live in Southampton with our two girls. I work with IFES Europe as their Regional Training Co-ordinator, training staff and students across Europe. In 2019 I set up Passion for Evangelism a network of creative, public female speakers. I'm a Trustee for the Cowrie Scholarship Foundation raising essential funds for disadvantaged Black British Students. I'm also a Trustee for Friends International helping welcome International students to the UK. In response to the war in Ukraine I helped set up Ukraine Connect matching refugees and hosts across Europe

12 thoughts on “Running a Nativity trail

  1. I love this idea and am thinking about organising one for my area. I just had a question about lighting… It will be getting dark so early in the run up to Christmas, I wondered if you had suggestions /ideas on how to ensure people can see the windows/the decorations people have made when outside it will be very dark – I’m thinking that obviously Christmas lights are very visible, but a picture of say, Mary and Joseph, might be more difficult to see…I would love to hear any ideas/thoughts people have about this? Thanks!


    1. Hello, you can buy bright lights for your front garden, leave you front room lights on so that windows are shining throughout the evening, happy to email you if you need more info!!!


  2. This is fantastic! Thank you so much for sharing. We are going to try to put on a 12-day nativity trail. Sorry to be so lacking in any independent thought whatsoever, but what is the 12 letter sentence you are using?


  3. Hi,
    I was looking for help with the map. I have made a trail which we will be sharing through school.I have added the points but i cannot find on my google search how to get to a simplified map like your halloween one with the roads needed. Thanks for any advise


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