Magic - Danielle Steel Page 0,1

and love for the city.

Half the fun is not knowing where it will take place that year. It is a formal secret kept religiously by the six organizers. And wherever it will happen, people are invited in couples, and each couple must bring their own folding table and two chairs, both of regulation size.

The six organizers inform “subheads” of the evening of the first location where people are meant to gather. All invited guests are to show up with their caddies, tables, and chairs, at one of the initial sites at precisely eight-fifteen P.M. The two groups will dine in two different locations. The excitement begins to mount when the first locations are revealed, which revelers are informed of only the afternoon of the event. It gives one some rough idea of where the actual dinner might be held, but it’s all guesswork, since usually there are several possible beautiful locations within easy walking distance of that first location. All day people try to guess where they will be having dinner. People arrive promptly at their first location, dressed all in white and equipped for the evening. Friends find each other in the crowd, call out to each other, and discover with delight who is there. Spirits are high for half an hour in the meeting place, and at eight-forty-five precisely the final destination is revealed, no more than a five-minute walk from where they are.

Once the location is announced, each couple is assigned a space the exact size of their table, and they must set up in that space, in long neat rows. People often come in groups of couples, friends who have attended the event for years, and dine side by side with their individual tables as part of the long rows.

By nine o’clock, seven thousand people have reached the spectacular monuments that are the lucky winners for the night. And once they have arrived and been given their table location assignment, measured by the inch or centimeter, tables are unfolded, chairs set down firmly, tablecloths spread out, candlesticks produced, tables set as for a wedding. Within fifteen minutes, the diners are seated, pouring wine, happy, and beaming in anticipation of a spectacular evening among old and new friends. The excitement and the finally revealed secret of the location make the participants feel like children attending a surprise birthday party. And by nine-thirty, the festivities are in full swing. Nothing could be better.

The dinner begins about an hour before sunset, and as the sun sets, candles are lit on the tables, and after nightfall the entire square or place where the event is held is candlelit, as seven thousand diners clad in white, toasting each other with shimmering crystal glasses, silver candelabra on the tables, are a feast for the eye. At eleven P.M., sparklers are handed out and lit, and a dance band plays halfway through the evening, adding further merriment. At Notre Dame the church bells toll, and the priest on duty offers a blessing from the balcony. And precisely half an hour after midnight, the entire crowd packs up and disappears, like mice scampering into the night, leaving no sign that they have been there, except the good time that will be remembered forever, the friendships that were formed, and the special time that was shared.

Another interesting aspect of the evening is that no money changes hands. No fee is charged to be invited, nothing has to be purchased or paid for. One brings one’s own meal and cannot buy one’s way into the White Dinner. The organizers invite whom they choose to, and the