In their third annual Christmas pageant last weekend, students at St. Pius X School showcased the true message of the Nativity story.

"Most kids really just want the presents. I heard some girl at (a toy store) and she told her mom she wanted this $120 robotic ping-pong ball," said Aidan Smith, 9. "This show was about the real meaning of Christmas," said Aidan, who stepped into the role of the star-bearer at the last minute when another student fell ill.

"I didn't say anything, but it's pretty fun being part of it," he said.

Aven Williams, 10, took on an additional role when a second student could not perform because he was sick. Aven, who was cast as Zachariah, also played the role of Joseph.

"We tried to get the point across how important it is that Jesus was born and to praise him and be thankful for all that we have," said Alec Williams, 15, one of several pageant narrators.

The children, 43 in all, brought the Nativity story to life on the stage portraying all the pivotal characters, including Mary, Joseph, shepherds, the Three Wise Men and angels.

There were even a donkey and a camel painted and set on wheels by the students. The donkey cooperated; the camel did not.

The Wise Men rolled it through the audience to the stage where, twice, they tried to lean it against the stage and twice it fell down, drawing laughter from the crowd of about 100 people. Realizing they had to make their entrance to present their gifts of frankincense, myrrh and gold, the students left the camel prone on the floor.

The narrators told the story in sections between singing Christmas carols, among them "The First Noel," "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing" and "Silent Night." During "Away in a Manger," Sarah Previti, 7, sang a solo.

The young actors and singers concluded their performance by asking the audience to join them by singing "Happy Birthday" to Jesus. That was the favorite part for Chelsea Villar, 7, who played an angel.

"Who needs to go to Radio City Music Hall?" said the Rev. Michael Dugali, the pastor of St. Pius X Church.

Caroline Marcus, 7, said she enjoys acting, and her friend Emma Johnson, 8, said she liked "being with my friends and having fun." Both girls played angels.

"I liked the costume because it was sparkly and pretty and white," said Sienna Ferguson, 6, who was performing as an angel in her first Christmas pageant.

Director Debra Gailhard said the Saturday evening pageant sold out and people were turned away at the door. This was the first time the pageant was performed at the school rather than in the church, she said.

"Can you think of a better way to spend Christmas?" Gailhard asked.