For 30 years adults and children from the town of Saint Hilaire du Harcouet in Manche have acted out the traditional Christmas story but now retiring director Patrick Deniau has confirmed that the village has been unable to find a replacement.
For several years Mr Deniau has talked about wanting to retire but each time he has been persuaded to reconsider. But now he says it is too much to take on and the popular festive entertainment will be replaced by an ice rink.
â€˜It is a hard decision. For five years I have said again and again that I did not want to be directing the nativity play all my life. Today I have made my final decision,â€™ he said.
The ream responsible for putting on the production tried to find a director but could not find anyone local willing to take on such an arduous task. â€˜This is the complexity of this kind of situation when the performance relies on a handful of key people. We have not managed to find someone willing to take over the top role,â€™ explained Mr Deniau.
He also pointed out that the production has become increasingly costly and every year there was a lot of stress wondering if enough people would buy tickets. There have been years when bad weather has resulted in the production being loss making.
A book of memories and anecdotes recounting the history of the play is being put together and will be available to buy from November 2013.
The nativity play was first performed in 1982 and became bigger and more successful year after year. In 1987 Mr Deniau had the idea of getting a celebrity to read the text which resulted in a report appearing on Franceâ€™s flagship TF1 television news show and the tiny town of Saint Hilaire du Harcouet becoming famous all over France. The 30th edition last Christmas had the voice of French rock star Johnny Hallyday reading the text.
Audiences flocked to the show because it was a truly local performance with local people from the age of five to 90 taking part. Locals also provided the animals which gave it its name of the living creche.
The 25th anniversary show in 2007 saw a record audience of 12,500 over the two weeks when the play was performed. Over the 30 years it is estimated that over 250,000 people saw the play and it was particularly popular with overseas visitors from the UK. People from all over Normandy and from further afield, including Paris, travelled to see the annual show.