There are no words to describe Christmas Eve. And unfortunately we didn’t bring a camera (because really, who brings a camera to Midnight Mass?). We left at 10:50, which I thought was way too early given the percentage of Christians in Vietnam and surely they didn’t practice the American tradition of arriving at 11:00 for Midnight Mass.
Walking (or the walk-jog style one must adopt when following Brad) seemed to be the most efficient mode of transportation. We held hands and prayed as we dashed across the roundabout (not that an intersection would have been any safer, but really?), darting between cars and 2 million motorbikes. We could hear church bells, so we knew we were close. As we drew nearer, the crowds grew. The motorbikes had congregated, apparently for date night. Popsicle sticks and ice cream wrappers littered the street for as far as you could see. Finally we made our way to St. Joseph’s Cathedral.
I had an image of Christmas Eve in Hanoi ~ mass in a beautiful cathedral, of course it would be in Vietnamese but perhaps they would sing a familiar carol or two. We would be together as a family and would feel the spirit of Christmas. Let’s just say my “image” was a bit off.
Half the population of Hanoi was swarming outside the cathedral, some entertained by Santa juggling a soccer ball. The entrance to the cathedral was cordoned off by a gate (no room in the inn?), however, a Nativity play, apparently being performed inside, was broadcast on a screen outside, complete with a musical score including the “Pirates of the Caribbean” theme song and “Dangerous” by Akon. Intrigued, we watched for quite some time until we realized that the angel twirling like a ballerina was Gabriel announcing to Mary that she was with child. So much more story to tell. Brad wanted to stay to see if they were going to sing Christmas carols. I finally convinced him that perhaps that wasn’t going to happen.
We did have a nice Christmas Eve dinner with a wonderful string quartet playing all the traditional carols and Christmas breakfast with Josh Groban crooning in the background. For this year, that will have to do. As for baby Jesus, trust me ~ every time we crossed the street, He was with us.