Today was THE DAY of THE FEAST for the holidays. Like good Latinos that have adopted the Catholic observances of continental Europe, we celebrate Christmas on the Eve rather than the Day. Ideally, you have a huge feast late in the evening, then you go to mass at midnight, and then you come home and exchange gifts. It’s been a while since our family has been motivated to do the full midnight mass with the throngs of un-lapsed Catholics, and this year was no different. The plan was to go to mass around 18h00, eat dinner around 20h00, and then stay up chatting and drinking until midnight, at which point we’d exchange gifts and call it a night.
I had ordered a duck to be roasted at a nearby butcher’s shop, which we would need to pick up before 18h00, but otherwise our day was pretty open. So we started the day making a final attempt at shopping for gifts; in particular, my mom wanted my sister to pick her gift out herself. So we made the rounds of the shops in the Marais, then through the gay area, then through BHV, and then down to Ile Saint-Louis. We stopped on the island for a coffee and some ice cream (Berthillon!) and then kept on shopping.
While we were walking, I got a call from a friend of mine from Berlin that was in town, saying that she had a bit of time to meet me for a drink. We made a date to meet in about an hour and I left my parents and sister to keep shopping. I took advantage of window of time to dash off to Colette to buy my sister a book of bird drawings that she had seen a couple of days ago and really loved. Despite my fears, the shopping dash was a success, in no small part due to the fact that the salesperson took me to the upstairs cashier rather than the downstairs one (which was totally rammed with customers).
I arrived at the Saint-Paul square just in time and grabbed a table at a café directly facing the butcher shop where I needed to grab the duck as well as the church where I would meet my family for mass at 18h00. As it turns out, my friend was super-late, so by the time she met me I had to go get the roast duck. The woman at the butcher shop had made it clear to me that I had to pick it up before 18h00, or else, and I was inclined to believe her. So the two of us picked up the duck, dropped it off at the family’s apartment, and then headed back to the café to finally have our drink. By the time the drink was done, however, I had a message from my mom saying that mass was over and they were walking home. !@#$! I said goodbye hastily to my friend, sent an apologetic text message to my mom, and rushed off to find them. I wasn’t sure how mad my mother would be about this, since she can be unpredictable about how important these sorts of family rituals are to her, but this time she was cool with it, thankfully.
From there, we headed back to the apartment and cooked a massive dinner, which took us hours to eat and produced more leftovers than we knew what to do with. Gifts were exchanged, desserts were eaten, TV was watched, belts were loosened. And, at some ungodly hour of the night, I biked my way home in the cold.