Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas at the Cathedral, and Denied at the Dorothy Chandler

After the church we usually attend -- Los Feliz's St. Casimir -- decided to move its Christmas Eve mass to 10 p.m. (waaay too late for us, as we had a family gathering that evening), we discovered that downtown's Cathedral had scheduled its family-targeted Christmas Eve mass at much more workable 4 p.m.

The $189 million Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, designed by Spanish architect Rafael Moneo, opened up in 2002. Erected to replace downtown's old St. Vibiana cathedral -- damaged in the 1994 Northridge quake, and now remade by Tom Gilmore into a special events venue -- came with plenty of controversy.

The high cost of some of the Cathedral's features led to the nickname the "Taj Mahony" -- a dig at Cardinal Roger Mahony, who heads up the Los Angeles archdiocese.

We briefly investigated getting married at the Cathedral back in 2002, but the timing didn't work (plus, we ultimately decided to go with the Plaza Church -- La Placita -- in El Pueblo de Los Angeles). As a result, we had never actually attended Mass at the Cathedral until Wednesday night. (Above, tapestries of saints by painter John Nava hang on the walls.)

I'm glad we did. Surprisingly, it was crowded, but not packed; there was plenty of room for attendees at the Cathedral (which holds 3,000). And because it was geared toward families with small kids, it wasn't an overly long service. Most interestingly, Cardinal Mahony was there (above, he greets folks after Mass) -- and while he didn't preside over the Mass, he did remain on the altar and give a blessing at the end.

The timing of the Mass was also perfect for several local TV news teams -- KCBS/KCAL, KABC and (I believe) KTTV were all there. (Above, a KCBS/KCAL cameraman does double duty.)

Meanwhile, the 4 p.m. time meant that we had time to stroll over across the street to the Music Center, with the hopes of checking out the Los Angeles County Holiday Celebration.

Something else we've been meaning to do for years, the annual event -- which takes place from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion -- features countless performers, and is free to attendees, who come and go throughout the show.

We naively thought we could stroll in and check it out. Uh, not quite. The line from the door snaked down the entire length of the Music Center.

We didn't have time to spend 45 minutes in line, and instead walked around the Music Center, where others who opted not to join the queue were milling about. A big screen erected in the Music Center plaza featured what was going on inside (via the live simulcast on KCET).

Even though we didn't get in, there was a jubilant mood there in the plaza, as we walked around with a few hundred other Angelenos on Christmas Eve -- the crisp air, the tall, sparking Christmas tree lights, the downtown skyline, the music piped outdoors from the stage. A pretty cool Los Angeles experience.

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