Whether your beliefs were born in a manger, celebrated by lighting a menorah, or took flight beside a jolly man in a red suit, they are steeped in tradition. What holiday traditions do you hold dear year after year?
My family’s most treasured holiday traditions have been passed down from my Italian ancestors. I remember the flurry of preparations that commenced in my gramma Bomareto’s kitchen. The cooking began before the Thanksgiving leftovers had a chance to be devoured. I can easily recall the aromas of garlic, anise, and Chianti. Homemade sauces simmered for hours in pots deep enough to challenge the height of my short family. There were meatballs to be rolled, fish to be fried, and squid to be stuffed. When I was old enough, I joined my gramma, mother, and aunts in making these dishes. The baking was my favorite part. The sizzle sound as the pizzelle dough squished out the side of the iron is ingrained fondly in my mind. I can’t forget how my mouth watered just anticipating the taste of the first wine cookie.
The whole month of December was spent preparing a Christmas Eve feast for nearly forty people. Handmade sequined tablecloths adorned the end-to-end tables. The guests usually balanced plates on their laps as the food took up the table tops. Family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers eagerly arrived grateful to be included in the tradition. After dessert the crowd headed to the wooden paneled basement to exchange gifts. There was something for everyone to unwrap. Paper, ribbon and tinsel decorated the floor. Papa’s voice joined that of Johnny Mathis and Andy Williams as they serenaded us with carols. As the night wore on the candelabra spun above its burning candles.
The years have given and taken family members. Friendships have changed, as have coworkers. Neighbors have moved. The gathering is down to just nine of us now. Sad as it is to let go of the past, we can’t make new memories if we are only willing to live in old ones. Some traditions remain like the stool that resides by the stove for my mother to stir the spaghetti and meatballs. Christmas wouldn’t be the same without pizzelles. The constraints of time, unfortunately, factor into whether or not the wine cookies will be present. Johnny and Andy’s voices continue to sing to us, and if I listen closely I can hear the ghost of Papa’s voice.
Combining old traditions with new ideas allows each generation to make their mark on the holiday. With fewer people playing games has become our past time. We now look forward to playing charades and unwrapping silly trinkets form a Saran wrap ball. The silliness of the whole thing is what keeps us doing it again and again. Seeing the excitement and anticipation on the faces of my daughters and nieces makes me remember how I felt as a child.
No matter what inspires your traditions, my hope for you is that your holidays are a joyous affair. Cheers to the memories made in the past, the present and the future!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!