Advent Calendar: December 10, 2015
Christmas Traditions: Post # 10
From now until Christmas Eve, I will be participating in the 2015 Edition of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories by Thomas MacEntee and the Geneabloggers. If you would like to know more or even join in, please see This Link. I’d like to personally thank Dawn Williams-Kogutkiewicz of Dawning Genealogy for sharing this idea on Genealogy Bloggers.
December 10 – Christmas Traditions
So many of us have family traditions related to Christmas that we learned as children and we still keep to this day. Do you know how your traditions started – is there a “backstory” to each one? What about starting new traditions – how do you start and keep the tradition going? Are there any traditions which you disliked and you refuse to keep? Tell us about your family’s Christmas traditions and your memories of Christmases past.
My Memories: My Christmas traditions seemed to more start after I married into an Italian family. A family who have lots of traditions and I’ve celebrated them for so many years, that it’s almost all I remember.
December 1st always marked the tradition to plan the Christmas cookie list. We all have tons of cookie recipes, but it’s usually the same ones we make year after year – it’s just a tradition and hard to break. You know what you like and the family wants. I always baked Cherry Winks, Butter Balls and Thumbprints for me, but it was the everyday favorite of Chocolate Chip, which only the guys wanted; they never seemed to like any of the Christmas cookies.
The Feast of the Seven Fishes (Italian: Festadei sette pesci), also known as The Vigil (Italian: La Vigilia), is an Italian celebration of Christmas Eve with meals of fish and other seafood. It just isn’t Christmas Eve unless the fish meal was served.
Christmas Eve is the more celebrated of the holiday for us, with the evening dinner beginning with the serving of seafood known as The Seven Fishes.
Our main evening meal consisted of a seafood crab sauce served over pasta – then tray after tray of shrimp cocktail, fried shrimp, calamari, scallops, stuffed shrimp, Baccalà and smelts, and often even more. After many years of making the seafood sauce, I have now turned the cooking of it over to my husband, who has perfected it with his own touches; he’s a perfectionist when he cooks! Steve meticulously picks the meat out of the blue crabs when the sauce is almost ready, and adds back into the sauce; the crab meat definitely thickens, giving added taste. In the past, we ate the crabs after the meal, but lately they had become wasted; no more waste now, thanks to hubby!
The stuffed shrimp is still made by me – hubby hasn’t taken that over yet. His contribution to the meal is that delicious crab sauce!
When our children were small, we went to both grandmother’s homes on Christmas Eve; our children were able to enjoy a glimpse of how my husband’s Christmases were celebrated in the past.
Christmas Eve was very hectic with the travelling and two small kids, but it was an exciting night filled with visiting family and enjoying foods that we’ve looked forward to all year.
This plastic Santa and sleigh with reindeer always sat on top of our Christmas tree long before our children were born. Even though it’s only
plastic, nothing expensive, it was always a tradition to put it high on the top of the tree. My daughter has taken possession of it now and it’s making new memories with her family, along with the newest tradition of the Elf on the Shelf – Josephine watches over the girls daily.
My Husband’s Memories: Christmas Eve was always the best day. Besides the abundance of foods served at the evening meal, Santa also came that night.
I had two grandmothers nearby, and we went to each of their homes on Christmas Eve; first we went to Nonni’s house – my father’s mother. She never served fish on Christmas Eve, but instead served homemade pizza.
Santa always arrived at Nonni’s house; it didn’t take long to figure out who was behind that white beard – I’d just look around and whichever uncle was missing, well you knew. Santa arrived carrying a large red sack filled with presents – and you hoped that they weren’t all clothes! I always left with a bag of gifts, mostly clothes, but there usually was at least one good toy – that was ok because I knew I still had two more houses to hope for toys.
Christmas at my other grandmother’s house in West Haven was the best place to be on Christmas Eve. We didn’t usually eat there as we arrived later, but if Grandma Minnie had stuffed eel left over, it was mine! The only time we had eel was if Uncle Freddie had caught them, they were never bought. She made the best, but unfortunately no one ever learned how to cook them. Some have tried, but she took that recipe with her; some dishes just can’t be duplicated!
I never was around for the making of the Zeppoles, or ‘zapes, as we called them, but it was traditional to serve them Christmas Eve. Grandma, along with her daughters mixed up the dough early in the morning – then the painful process of all the frying began. The dough balls were mounded on a plate and drizzled with honey before serving. They were always the first thing I ate when I arrived that night.
Grandma Minnie’s house was always bustling with family, dishes of foods and cookies, and by nights end, the presents under the tree were piled high. All the cousins gathered anxiously, waiting for their name to be called. Paper, ribbons and empty boxes soon took the place of where all those nicely wrapped presents had once been. I remember my mother always saying that she often didn’t even know who gave us what; we never paid attention to the cards that came with the gifts – we just ripped into those presents – looking for a toy.
Even at my house, Santa arrived on Christmas Eve – Christmas morning was just for playing with the new gifts. We didn’t have to wake early to see what had arrived, but we still woke early to play with our new toys.
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© 2015 Jeanne Bryan Insalaco