I’m 16 and it’s 11:15pm on Christmas Eve. I’m sitting in Gran’s lounge flicking through cable channels on her TV.
Up until five minutes ago I had quite keen to go to mass at midnight. I’d never really considered the concept before. My church doesn’t really do what would traditionally be considered mass, and although I used to go on Christmas morning, I’d kind of fallen out of the practice. I had been invited by my grandparents and was quite excited to go…
…until I flicked past Bravo and noticed Confessions of a Window Cleaner was on.
“Ooh! It’s a Timmy Lea film!” I said out loud to nobody in particular, deciding then and there that I didn’t really need to go to mass; I could just wait out Christmas watching questionable slapstick comedy mixed with gratuitous cheeky smut. I’d managed to upset my mum, who shouldn’t have minded as she is an atheist, by telling her that I’d decided not to go.
I can sit here watching Confessions, and things will be fine.
My finger hits the “last” button on the remote the instant my mum walks in and the TV channel jumps to The Box. Changes by 2Pac is on (again).
“Your grandparents have gone to mass,” she says in a voice saturated with disapproval. (My memory is telling me that a sex scene has just started on the channel and I’m missing it.) “Without you.”
“Yeah, I know. I’m… I’m too tired to go,” I lie smoothly.
“I meant to tell you, though, that if you don’t go to mass you won’t be able to sit here watching music videos. You’ll have to go to bed.”
Five minutes of kicking about in my room pass before I look at the clock and notice the time. It’s 11:25. I half walk, half run into the lounge.
“Changed my mind!” I shout. “I want to go to mass!”
My parents look at each other.
“But it’s in five minutes,” my mother says.
“But I’ve decided I really really really want to go! And it’s not too far away, and if you drive me…”
I sit in a chair next to my nan thirty seconds before our minister starts up. There are some huffy comments about how late I left it, but nevertheless, they’re pleased I’m here. I am too. This happens once a year, it seems fun, and I can always watch ’70s sex comedies on Channel 5. There’s no reason not to come to this.
And that’s how I started going to mass on Christmas Eve. Things have happened since then, of course – people have started to come and stopped again. As teenagers the cousins would all get drunk and then stumble to church and have a whale of a time. Once my auntie would drop the blood of Christ on the floor (and mostly my uncle’s trousers). Every year we would struggle our way through the descant on O Come All Ye Faithful (and we still do).
But it really doesn’t feel like Christmas without it.