Since my parish did not offer a vigil mass for the solemnity, we attended elsewhere. The parish I chose just happened to be enjoying a visit from the bishop of Trenton who celebrated the vigil mass for the solemnity as well as solemn vespers and Te Deum afterwards.
We arrived early just in case the bishop drew a crowd. He didn't. I took my boys back one at a time to light candles. When the youngest asked me why we light candles, I said it's the reverse of blowing out birthday candles.1 St. Gregory's is one of the few parishes I know that doesn't have electric votive candles. I let the boys try to strike the paper matches themselves and only the youngest succeeded. The older two were probably too afraid of being successful. But the youngest burned his fingers trying to light the candle.2 I give him credit for not dropping the lit match on the stone floor. So all of them used a long, wooden stick to light their candle rather than the match. You really have to be quick with the match, especially because you have to reach down inside the votive glass to get the wick.
There was incense. And all the altar boys were on hand, as well as all the clergy. I wonder still why everyone sat after saying only the first line of the Gloria, then stood up for the Collect. The GIRM says, "The faithful should stand from the beginning of the Entrance Chant, or while the Priest approaches the altar, until the end of the Collect" (no. 43) It doesn't mention sitting during the Gloria as at a Traditional Latin Mass. I object to blending.
The bishop's homily from the vigil mass may be read online. I appreciate his point that the presence of shepherds at Jesus' birth is "not simply a sentimental, 'nice' part of the story." I had hoped my boys might meet the bishop after mass but he had to vest right away for vespers. I wondered how vespers would run, since the provided text indicated chanted Latin. I couldn't imagine the congregation could chant Latin. In fact, the only two who could or did was the choirmaster and one of his cantors. The clergy and the laity sat and listened. It was dull beyond belief.
Nevertheless, I might have muddled through - and I did try to sing along - if not for the kids. They wanted to leave. More than two hours in church is asking too much of them. So we slunk out. And I wish I'd known about the plenary indulgence for the Te Deum on New Year's Eve.
1 How different are wishes from prayers at their age anyway?
2 When I told my husband, he said, "Good. He ought to be afraid of matches." True.