Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday with your beloved ones no matter where you were, cracking a bottle of wine on the beach or cozy on the couch for the Home Alone series. As a non-Christian, Christmas didn’t have much of a meaning to me but this time I decided to have it the local way.
In Milan, Christmas is another word for shopping spree and traffic congestion, even at pedestrian zones on a week day. Most of the time I had to elbow my way downs streets packed of people laden with shopping bags and yet couldn’t find room to move. The traffic wasn’t really reduced until hours before midnight — when most of them have probably headed home for an extended dinner with family. The crowds at Milanese signature supermarket Esselunga also dwindled and for the first time in months I didn’t have to wait in lines at all. At one point it was a bit strange when I found no one else at the platform.
Piola M2 metro station at 2 o’clock on the Christmas Eve
First roasted chicken
To make our Christmas experience local, my Vietnamese friend suggested to cook an European-styled roasted chicken for dinner. We bought a round and plump yellow chicken from the supermarket and googled for the seemingly easiest recipe. Ironically after 30 mins running around we couldn’t find any full set of ingredients and ended up going for whatever we had: olive oil, onions, lime, garlic, black pepper and curry (for the nice color). How to roast with the oven and what temperature to set were the next challenge because these factors were pretty much dependent on the type of chicken we had and how much it weighed. We decided to follow one random recipe, pre-heating the oven at 200 degrees C for 15 minutes and cooking at 190 degrees C for half an hour. The tray was pulled off for checking once or twice but in the end the outcome was quite satisfactory. After an hour wrestling with the oven, our chicken was properly cooked, looked wonderfully juicy and tasted just tender. Nothing was burned except for a very thin layer of skin on my right hand.
The Midnight Mass at Duomo Cathedral followed on the Eve which was another first-time experience for us. A popular travel blog advised at least two hour arrival before the service so we rushed to the center after the late dinner. Turned out the queue wasn’t that long and the church had enough seats for some 3,000 parishioners and guests. After half an hour waiting on the line and security check we managed to get two aisles slots in the back, near a TV screen and started admiring the magnificent beauty inside the church at night. The ceremony started at 11:30pm sharp as the Fathers walked in and enthroned the Baby Jesus to the red manger. The whole ritual was rather fascinating to watch and easy to follow although we didn’t understand most of the mass readings. Some Fathers had really beautiful voices. I loved the part where everyone was invited to stand up and shake hands with people sitting near by.
Anyway, the Eve wrapped quite a long but beautiful period of Christmas celebrations. New memories were created, new challenges conquered and more first-time experiences tasted. The only thing that bothered me was the old homeless man who looked extremely worn-out on the metro yesterday. He was forced to move away, but to where? He didn’t seem to know…
The beautifully illuminated Christmas tree and Duomo Cathedral in Milan