Sunday, December 25, 2011

Day Five, Latin's Alive

Christmas Eve was a clear but cold day here in New York and we set off around lunch time, bound for an Off-Broadway show called Voca People. The theatre was really quite full - except for our row, which was dead empty except for me and the folks. People are so creative, you know? The Voca People perform using just their voices - no instruments, no nothing. Naturally they are helped along by one of them being the beatbox champion of Portugal, so his voice was providing the percussive sound and background beats. I was on the edge of my seat for the whole performance (much to the enjoyment of my Mum) but I was having a great time. The breadth of the music used in the show ranged from classical stuff like the William Tell Overture, all the way through to the theme music from "ET" and modern day stuff - so good. There was audience participation too - which I normally hate - but because they only picked on people in the first two rows of the theatre (and not us, way down the back), I was pretty cool with it. I was really pleased that some of the audience members were really good sports too - they got into the spirit of the show and made it really funny for the rest of us.

After lunch we grabbed a cab over to Bloomgindale's, where I honestly thought I was going to freak out. So many people - so many shoppers, little dogs, fragrance people - ugh it was all going on yesterday. Totally reinforced why I love online shopping so much. But I have to say, going through those designer departments and feeling the soft and snuggly cashmere clothes and rich fabrics; mmm, it was sensory overload, but in a good way for sure. I also kept my wallet in my handbag too, so well done me!

From Bloomies we walked the few blocks past Tiffany's (and their gorgeous window displays) to The Russian Tea Room for dinner. I had made the booking for dinner with the Russians because they were offering a really tasty prix-fixe, post-theater menu that I thought we'd all enjoy. The three of us were safely closeted into a red leather banquette/booth and from our vantage point we had a really lovely view of the dining room. That early in the evening, things weren't really swinging, but I got the feeling the wait staff were steeling themselves for a pretty busy night. I had really the tasty borscht to start, then a main course of beef stroganoff and for dessert I had the chocolate pyramid. Washed down with a cosmopolitan (or a cosmonaut, in this place) and a glass of Australian red wine and I was a very happy girl. The Russian Tea Room's gift shop downstairs is a bit crappy unfortunately - just several glass cases full of really expensive kitschy things like babushka dolls and linens and jewellery boxes and stuff like that. Nothing that interested us at all, but it was nice to at least look and see what they had.

Upstairs in the cold air again, we were weighing up our transport options on how to get back to my hood when lo and behold, a cab pulled up right in front of us to let its passengers out. It was a Christmas miracle! So we bounded on in and took a ride to the Moonstruck Diner on Madison, for a couple of coffees before we had to be at Christmas mass. As diners go, Moonstruck won't change your life but it was so nice and warm in there - and the peppermint teas were hot and tasty after our long day out; we just loved it.

A little before 10pm we walked back to the Church of Our Saviour, a Catholic church at the corner of E38th St & Park Avenue. I had never been inside but we'd checked ahead of time and knew that the church would be having 2 Christmas services that night - a carol singing with the choir at 10.30pm followed by a Christmas mass at 11pm. The Church itself is beautiful, and I remember saying to Dad it was such a shame that their website was so plain - it doesn't do the building itself any favours at all. The church really resembles a portion of a European basilica - gorgeous tiled floors, gilded ceilings and huge almost orthodox paintings with gold leafing all over the place. So lovely and sparkly and everywhere you looked, there was something new to see. The choir did a lovely job at setting the scene for Christmas and once the candles were lit, and the parishoners were seated we were ready to go.

The carols were lovely and traditional and then at 11pm the Christmas service started. It was like going back in time! With the exception of some of the prayers and the homily, the mass was entirely in Latin. Can you believe it? The music started and I recognised the tune of "O, Come All Ye Faithful". I was all ready to warble along and next thing I know, the congregation starts singing "Adeste Fidelis". I scrambled to find the Latin translation in the hymn book on my seat but I only found it as we got to the third verse. Typical. The same thing happened with "Silent Night", only that we sang that in German. It was such a mixed bag! I was confused throughout pretty much the entire mass, but at the same time it was really beautiful and a lovely treat. For Mum & Dad I figured the Latin mass must have been a bit of a flashback to when they were at school; indeed, they said it had been AGES since they'd heard a mass in Latin. As we filed out of the Church just after midnight, I felt pretty sure that we had all had a good time.

The walk home from the church really woke us all up - that fresh, cool air was a marked change from the populated, snuggly church. But even though the city streets were far from quiet, it sure was a beautiful way to start Christmas Day 2011.

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