UNDER starry skies baby Jesus slumbered peacefully in his manger, watched over by proud parents... and a peckish donkey.
Without the city lights twinkling in the background, or happy crowds singing Christmas carols, the nativity scene could well have been set in Bethlehem 2,011 years ago.
But in fact it was at Stannington’s famous annual festivities, where 200 people turned out in the bitter cold to see the story of Christmas brought to life with a magical outdoor event featuring many villagers - and live animals.
Carrying a flask of hot mulled wine was regular Wendy Longley, 41, who had brought family from Manor Park to enjoy the unusual night out.
“For me the nativity is the real start of Christmas,” she said. “It has a lovely community feel.”
Her partner Ian Shackleton, 39, added: “It’s rare to get villages doing things like this so it is great to see.”
And there was plenty to see.
Live musicians provided the background for singing and dancing - although real sheep were sadly missing as their shepherd was ill.
Tinsel-clad angels and three kings on horseback, plus Gertrude the donkey from Graves Park animal sanctuary, told the age-old story with a modern twist, moving crowds between pub car parks across the village’s steep hills.
The nativity, organised by Christ Church Stannington for 16 years, was rehearsed only once.
Canon Philip West, one of the three narrators, said: “The nativity has got a bit of history and a bit of humour in it but it is true to the Bible and it touches people.
“It really does bring the Christmas story to life and everyone is fantastic at helping out.”
The youngest star of the show, Grace Riddell, aged just three months, played Jesus - and slept soundly through the entire proceedings.
Mary was played by Felicity Cook, 15, and Joseph - acted by Jonathan Foster - were her family for the night as Grace’s real parents Ben and Rachel, of Stannington, watched on.
Ben said: “We are very proud. If she’s going to be an actor this is a good start!
“It’s so nice to take part and I hope we will next year, though I don’t think we’ll have another baby Jesus by that point!”
Collections for Sheffield Cathedral’s Archer Project for the homeless also took place at the nativity.