If you’re one for a late night singalong on 24th December (some call it Midnight Mass I believe, but it’s obviously all about the singing isn’t it?) then welcome to the club. This is almost my favourite hour of any year, an hour in which the joy of sharing melodies with total, often slightly drunken, strangers is enhanced by the cold and by the mysterious hour. It always makes me cry. Which always make me cross, because it’s ruddy hard to sing in tune if you’re blubbing.
Being introduced to Christmas Day Italian style has made me realise another plus of midnight mass attendance. It really helps you work up a hunger man enough for the task of surviving Italian Christmas feasting. The trick is to not stagger home and indulge in a midnight feast; do that and you’re doomed. You need to keep the hunger, and you need to keep it right through Christmas day morning without succumbing to temptation. ‘Feel the burn’ as Jane Fonda used to say, in exercise instruction tapes so old school now that they were actually only released in cassette form.
Those of you who are thinking you’ve experienced any challenge of quantity that Christmas fayre has to offer, I give you this single thought. In Italy, it is traditional to make a huge homemade baked pasta dish for the Christmas meal – a richly layered lasagne, a deeply stuffed cannelloni. This rich, filling pasta dish is, literally, your STARTER. With your belly filled with ladlefuls of rich gooey pasta and vats of sauce, you are ready to move on to Christmas dinner proper.
Food for thought eh? Sing heartily, sing loud.