Thursday, December 07, 2006

Christmas in Washington

It's really great.

Lots of free concerts and recitals, lights, parties, menus at restaurants. I've done two parties so far, and have another three next weekend. It's better than anywhere else I've done Christmas. Even better than Paris. Except in Paris Jessye Norman was singing at Notre Dame. I would have had tickets if she'd been here.

My discovery of Christmas in Paris was when we kept foreign students in Florida. We visited one of them for Christmas, and he lived in a small town just outside the Péripherique. On Christmas eve, we went to the local church's 5 pm family service, in which the children portrayed the Christmas story in lieu of homily. It was dreadful, as they all generally are, and as usual, the parents thought the performances were brilliant. They are entitled to their opinion.

During the Offertory, the kids came back and portrayed the story of the Good Samaritan. They were evidently running out of kids, because one of the robbers was also the innkeeper. He appeared to get everybody's money.

We then went home to a feast like I have never since or before seen the likes.

Escargot, Coquilles St. Jacques, foie gras, oysters on the halfshell. We ate until midnight then quit, long before we got to anything like salad or roast beef or cheese or dessert. We had those the next day.

Another Christmas in Florida, we had a student from Japan with us. One Saturday when she was out with her friends, we went out and got the biggest tree we could fit into our dining room, which had 13' cathedral ceilings. We decorated it and left the lights off in the dining room to emphasize the lights on the tree.

When she came home, we urged her to go see the Christmas Tree in the dining room. She said she would in a little while, and we forgot about it. In a few minutes we heard this distinctively Japanese "Ho-o-o-o-o-o-H!! coming from the dining room. Evidently in Japan, Christmas trees are about a foot tall and plastic. She'd never seen anything that big inside a house. Further, it took two or three days until she brushed against it for her to discover that it was a live tree! For the whole time we had it up, she would go into the darkened dining room, pull up a chair and just gaze upon the splendor of the tree.

We took her to midnight mass in the cathedral on Christmas eve, and arrived so late that we had to sit in the narthex. Here came the bishop and all the clergy in all their gold brocade, swinging the thurible full of incense, walking through the bunch of us in folding chairs, heading into the church. We heard another "Ho-o-o-o-o-o-h!" as she asked "And you do this every week??"

We told her we generally didn't sit in the lobby.

Still, when we see a particularly magnificent Christmas tree, one of us will emit a "Ho-o-o-o-o-o-h!"

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