Midnight Mass

Spanish children do not rush off to bed of an evening. Thus it was that on Christmas Eve, we were treated to a nativity play when we attended La Misa del Gallo (The Cockerel’s Mass), which begins at midnight, and is so called because tradition has it that when Jesus was born the cock crowed three times. Children were milling about, dressed variously as Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, the kings and assorted stars and sheep. The mass began and after the gospel reading, the lights were dimmed and the enactment of the Nativity took place.It was perhaps as well that we had just had the story read out to us, since even with microphones to hand, the actors tended to mumble their lines nervously. Mary and Joseph duly arrived at the inn and were duly redirected to the stable. The sacristy served as the stable and so Mary and Joseph went in through the door. After a moment or two, a parent switched on the tape, and over the speakers came first the deafeningg sound of a cockerel giving full throat to his announcement, and then immediately afterwards, the strident bawling of a new-born babe. Seconds later, a triumphant Mary marched back into the sanctuary, the baby Jesus held aloft, and everybody clapped enthusiastically. Shepherds and kings duly came forward and paid homage. The congregation clapped a second time, in appreciation of the children’s efforts, and then the mass continued. It happens every year, but it still sends a tingle up my spine.

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