Sunday, December 26, 2021

Buon Natale e Felice di Anno Nuovo!


Buon Natale!!  The Christmas Season is truly the merriest time of year for my  family.  Growing up in an Italian American family at Christmas was magical.  Christmas Eve was the star of the season.  Traditionally we would gather to celebrate The Feast of the Seven Fishes or "Festa dei Sette Pesci."  Fish only is to be served.  This tradition honors the seven sacraments or seven virtues of Catholicism. The number 7 is biblically recognized hundreds of times. This tradition is celebrated among southern Italians, as my family is from Bari and Napoli.  

The Feast begins with antipasto at our Christmas Eve table: stuffed clams, squid, oysters and mini crab cakes.  The Primi Piatti (first course) would include linguine and clams or seafood lasagna or crab sauce with fettuccine.  Followed by the Secondo Piatti (second course) of shrimp, stuffed mushrooms and vegetables.  I Dolci (dessert) would vary from homemade Italian cookies, cannoli and pizzelles.  These desserts were passed down from my grandmother and  honored by my sisters and I - and now our children.  

Growing up I remember after my Dad, mom and three sisters and I celebrated Christmas in Bowie, Maryland, we would drive to New York to celebrate with our relatives - aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins.  We would visit Queens, Brooklyn and Long Island and the city for a Christmas Show and tree lighting.  This was forever ingrained in my spirit and pride in being Italian.  Oh the bread, oh the Italian bakeries, oh the homemade sauce and smell of garlic!  No one does Christmas like New Yorkers - especially Italian New Yorkers.  From the embellished decorations and lights to the abundant food and lavish celebrations.   We grew up with the Rockettes, the tree at Rockefeller Center and the Christmas spirt of Queens and Brooklyn every year.  

Walking into my grandparents home I would be welcomed by the smell of garlic and homemade gravy.  My grandmothers dining room table was piled high with trays of my favorite Italian cookies: honey balls; little crescent cookies; jelly cookies; biscotti and pizzelles.  My cheeks would be pinched by my Aunt Annette just in time to sneak in some of her stromboli while my grandparents paced around the kitchen stove critiquing the sauce, debating when the sausage should go in and how long to cook the meatballs. 

The reverence of the holiday, the respect of the food, and the long-time traditions being served with such passion behind every celebration was a code of honor to be carried on for generations to come.  We were Italian and this is how Christmas was to be celebrated - ALWAYS.  Oh, and the presents!  But yet, the presents I remember the least - We were the gift. Family, tradition and being together was the true gift on Christmas.

And from these beautiful traditions of family, food and festivities my sisters and I continue to honor and celebrate Christmas with the delicate touch that we learned from our ancestors.  We'll gather this December 24, 2021 with our husbands and children, our mom and the spirt of our beloved father, Felice, in our memories at the table and beyond -- over linguine and clams, shrimp, crabs cakes and
Italian vino.  My children and nieces will make the Italian cookies and pizzelles, my nephews will make pizza and homemade pasta and our husbands will make the celebrated fish dishes.  

We'll eat, we'll critique and we'll be forever Italian American at Christmas Eve and beyond.  Because were Italian and this is how Christmas is celebrated ALWAYS.  God bless you all.  Buon Natale from our family to yours.