Christmas the Italian-American way (Advent Calendar, Day 19)

Many of us have enjoyed Michael Thorn’s wit and humor throughout this month’s Advent Calendar. He has been a kind and gracious guest, welcoming everyone and cracking us up (Oops, maybe a bad metaphor…thanks for ruining that particular one for me permanently, Michael!) with his jokes about being in the corner. He is, as you see, on display in the corner due to his VERY naughty behavior. I think all of us should send his wife Season a nice hello or two, don’t you think?
Michael is here to tell us today about his Christmas traditions in an Italian-American family. Before I let Michael take over, please remember that all prize winners must contact your donor within four days, or the prize will be re-assigned!
Our naughty list of prize winners who have not contacted me (or helper elf Kathryn Blake) include:
  • Angel
  • Emily Tilton
  • Michelle Willms

If your prize donor has not responded to your first email, let me know. But because the Advent Calendar helper elves all donate their time to ensure everyone has a good time, we really appreciate when you let us know about prize distribution. If you have received your prize, respond with a thank you note and notify Kathryn or me.

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And here’s Michael!

I am second generation Italian-American. All my grandparents were born in Italy. Growing up, Christmas Eve was just as important as Christmas Day, and observed not only with the reverence of church, but also with the celebration of family, food and drink. In our household, and that of my Italian relatives and friends, Christmas Eve was meatless so we ate fish, and boy did we eat fish. Seven or more courses of fish hence the Feast of the Seven Fishes. Actually, more accurate would be seafood as the menu consisted of scallops, shrimp, calamari, mussels, clams, scungilli with the only fish being baccala.This was the basic menu but some years there would be more than these seven or sometimes other seafood substituted depending on quality and availability. Lobster (very rare) crab, oysters, tuna filet and even eel on occasion which does NOT taste like chicken.I remember the baccala, which is dried salted cod fish, being hard as a board and had to be soaked for a day or more to soften and remove the salt. And while the calamari and scungilli were delicious if as kids we knew it was squid and sea snail (specifically conch) we might have considered it too yucky to eat. The food was prepared in a variety of ways and always served with pasta or as we called it, macaroni. In fact, growing up it was more often than not referred to as the specific type of macaroni so when asked what was for dinner mom would answer ziti or rigatoni or rotelli. The only time we used the word pasta was for specific dishes such as pasta e fagioli (ditalini macaroni and beans) and pasta piselli (ditalinl and peas).

The calmari was served in marinara sauce which was a change from our usual meat sauce which was made with meatballs, Italian sausage usually hot, and pork chops. The mussels were also in marinara sauce. My dad cooked the mussels and I can still see them steaming in the pot their shells opening and closing like narrow mouths which made us kids squeal in wonder and delight. Now that I think about it I don’t know how my mom, dad and grandmother cooked the meal with us kids scurrying underfoot. As we got older we helped with the meal but not at this early age. But that’s part of what made the day special, we were not distracted with toys which wouldn’t be opened until the next day, but were caught up in the preparations for our Christmas Eve celebration.
The meal started with scungilli salad and clams oreganta as an appetizer, work its way through the other seafood courses and conclude with the baccala cut into pieces served over spaghetti aglio e olio – spaghetti in olive oil and garlic. Afterwards there would be a fruit and nut course then desserts of cannoli, homemade cookies and pies, two flavors of jello – strawberry and lime – so it was in the Christmas colors and strong cups of espresso into which my dad and grandfather would add anisette, the licorice smelling liqueur. The meal would start about 2:00 in the afternoon and last into the early evening, and the next day on Christmas we would repeat this sumptuous feast substituting lasagna and meat sauce for the seafood.
Why seven? In our family it was the Feast of the Seven Fishes even though many times it was more than seven, but in other families, including some relatives, the number was nine, or twelve or thirteen. There areΒ  many theories about the number seven for the feast. It is the most common number in the bible; it represents the bible verse in Genesis telling how God created the heavens and earth in seven days or it could be for the seven Sacraments in the Roman Catholic Church. I’m not sure about the number nine, but twelve could be for the twelve Apostles and thirteen could be for the twelve Apostles plus Jesus Christ.
I also mentioned drink as being a part of the celebration, and this is where my grandfather took center stage. Like many Italians he kept a garden even in the most urban of areas. His table always included homegrown vegetables from his garden. Various types of tomatoes and peppers. Squash, eggplant, peas and herbs such as basil, oregano and parsley. And grapes grown on a trellis for homemade wine. Growing up I got into trouble many times climbing on grandpa’s trellis. He made not only red wine but also liqueurs such as amaretto and anisette with 190 proof alcohol which I think he purchased through the local pharmacist. Part of my grandfather’s Christmas Eve tradition was in the evening he would take a large jug of his homemade wine and visit neighbors offering them a glass. He would be invited in and while he poured a glass of his wine the neighbor would reciprocate and pour a glass of his own homemade wine. As I got older I marveled that my grandfather never stumbled home, but walked straight as could be up the stairs and into the house. But he did go to sleep immediately upon getting home, sometimes never making farther than the easy chair in the living room.

Growing up that’s how we celebrated Christmas Eve. I miss my parents and grandparents and am forever thankful I have these Christmas memories to look back upon. I know you all have special Christmas memories, and hope you are making more precious memories with each passing Christmas.

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174 thoughts on “Christmas the Italian-American way (Advent Calendar, Day 19)

  1. Roz says:

    Hi Michael,

    I enjoyed reading about your Christmas Eve traditions growing up. What wonderful memories you have. It sounds like it was a wonderful time of togetherness as a family and magical as children. Have to say though, I would be in trouble as I don’t much like sea food of any description πŸ™‚

    Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas.

    Hugs,
    Roz

    Like

    • Michael says:

      Thank you Roz. So glad you enjoyed my reminiscences
      You wound not have been in trouble for not liking seafood – though I’m sure an imp like you would have been in trouble for something else – as there was plenty of other things to eat; Italian bread – crusty on the outside, light and fluffy on the outside, macaroni, stuffed mushrooms, artichoke hearts, peppers. Or maybe you could have just started with dessert. My mom had a sweet tooth and loved coffee so many times you would jokingly say we should start with dessert.

      Also wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas. πŸ™‚

      Like

      • Michael says:

        JC, Marybeth and dear little Ana. Forgive me my mistake. With all these comments coming fast and furious I have been busier than a one-armed Top in a spanking contest.

        And don’t forget, young ladies, Ana gave me the keys to the blog today and Mrs. Claus lent me her wooden spoon so any cheekiness will be dealt with in a very ouchy manner, and will include a very public display of corner time to serve as a warning for the other imps.

        Like

          • Michael says:

            Ana, dear sweet pain in my butt (literally) Ana. If you refer to our contract for hosting Day 19 of Ana’s Advent Calendar, page 2, section 1, paragraph 3 you will see the following:

            ~Designated blog host , hereto with known as Mr. Michael Thorn, shall for the duration of said Advent Day #19, be released from any corner time commitment. Furthermore Mr. Thorn will be the designated blog keeper for said Advent Day #19 and will wield the rod of authority over any and all imps including blog Mistress, one Ana Peppermint-Twist Vitsky. Said authority also includes the assignation of corner time to any and all imps deemed naughty by Mr. Thorn. Any questioning of Mr. Thorn’s authority, capability or sanity will be met with swift over the knee justice of the bare bottom variety. This clause is final and irrevocable. Any attempt to break or bypass said clause will result in the loss of sitting privilege due to the morning, noon and evening spankings administered by Mr. Thorn. ~

            Like

            • catrouble says:

              Darn wordpress $*#&%$…ANA! Please tell me you did not sign the contract that Michael claims you did! And if you did? WHY didn’t you warn us to mind our Ps & Qs!?!

              Like

              • Michael says:

                Cat she did sign it. I am looking at her signature on the contract right now.
                Ana Peppermint-Twist Vitsky
                Did you know she dots her “i”s with little hearts? So cute, just like our little Ana.

                Like

    • Michael says:

      You are welcome, Joelle, and thank you for taking the time to read the post and comment.
      As for the educational part, aren’t you glad I didn’t teach to the tune of a hickory stick. πŸ˜‰

      Like

      • Joelle Casteel says:

        lmao Michael. very much πŸ˜€ no hickory stick here either. Although often my teen does complain how I can relate almost anything to the world wars and once I get on a history lesson that includes either war, although especially WWII, I can summon up things I’ve learned, far more than he’ll ever forget πŸ˜€

        Like

        • Michael says:

          Joelle, the use of the hickory stick depends on the behavior of the imp. So the fate of your bottom rests in your hands…..then in my hands. πŸ˜‰
          And since you just admitted to Marybeth you are naughty the fate of your bum is sealed. Now where did I put that hickory stick.

          I love history, especially World War II.

          Like

  2. Ria says:

    Hi Michael, Can I visit you for Christmas Eve? Your meal of Seven Fishes sounds delicious. Growing up in the islands, fish is one of our staples – though not the variety you listed, :-). Our fishes are more like shark, carite, and king fish (these are all BIG fishes). However, at Christmas time, we rarely did fish. Our staple was ham. For Christmas, I get with my kids (yes, my boys still live with me, :-0) and we decide our menu and who does which dish. This Christmas, our menu includes chicken, ham and salmon. However, I will think of your meal of Seven Fishes. Thinking about it, I should browse the Food Network and see if there is some sort of paella I can include.

    Thanks for reminiscing with us, Michael. I wish you and your family a Peaceful and Joyous Christmas season and a new paddle to celebrate the new year, πŸ™‚

    Like

    • Michael says:

      Ria, would LOVE to have you over for Christmas Eve. Season and I don’t do the entire seven fishes but we do have one or two seafood items, usually scallops and trout. We also have mushroom manicotti which is yummy.

      Your menu sounds delicious. Chicken and ham and salmon, oh my! Love that you discuss the menu with your kids. I do hope you can add paella to your meal.

      BTW I LOVE shark! Haven’t had it for a while and now you’ve whetted my appetite.

      Also wishing you and your family a Peaceful and Joyous Christmas, and I hope I do get a new paddle to spank in the New Year with Season. Don’t know how much she’ll like this new tradition. 😈

      Like

  3. Mona Lisa says:

    It was a nice read, thanks for that, Michael,
    It was easy to feel all your love to your family by your story.

    We also have fish for dinner on Christmas Eve .. lol .. and I keep alive this tratition even though I live in another country and in another time.
    Merry Christmas to you and to your loved ones.

    Like

    • Michael says:

      Mona Lisa, I am so glad you enjoyed the post, and you felt the love of our family.

      You also have fish on Christmas Eve and judging from your name maybe you have a bit of Italian in you somewhere.

      Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones. πŸ™‚

      Like

  4. terpsichore says:

    Hello Michael and Season! Thank-you, Michael, for sharing some of your special Christmas memories from childhood. I love the spending time with family. On Christmas Eve growing up we always drank hot cocoa or cider, listened to Christmas carols together, and read the Night Before Christmas, and we were each allowed to open one present…it was always magical. Now we all go to my parents house to continue the tradition of celebrating with family. No fish, though…not a fan of seafood I am afraid. But lots of cookies and treats and we order Chinese Food… Have a wonderful Christmas season with your family! πŸ™‚

    Like

    • Michael says:

      Terpsichore, you are welcome, and thank you for sharing your Christmas Eve traditions. Such wonderful memories, and you are still making lots of new ones with your family at your patents house. This is a great time to be with family or if that’s not possible, keeping their memories alive in one’s heart. Merry Christmas to you and your family.

      Like

  5. Marybeth says:

    Michael,
    What a wonderful post. Such memories. I’ve already described our Christmas traditions in other posts. I would discuss your memories of your grandparents. I only had my mother’s parents. My father’s (first generation German) had both died when he was young. Anyways, Grandma and Grandpa lived a mile down the road. By the time I came along, they had both retired. I loved spending time with them! I frequently had overnite visits.Grandpa would sit in his undershirt at the table and shave his head! (He was mostly bald) Grandma would make a hearty breakfast. Then, I would sew with grandma. She didn’t use store bought patterns, she made her own from newspaper! Those were wonderful times!
    Thank you for letting me reminise, I miss my grandparents a lot. But they were excellent role models. I plan to be like them if I can.
    Oh, Michael, cat warns me not to take your place in the corner. She says Mrs. C wouldn’t like it. So, sorry. No can do.(:-)) But, I’ll keep the coal. Lol

    Like

    • Michael says:

      Marybeth, thanks for your memories. I love your grandfather in his undershirt shaving his head at the table. In your comment I can hear how much you miss your grandparents. 😦

      My grandfather would sit at the table in his undershirt but not shaving his head though he was mostly bald also. And I should have mentioned in the post that these were my maternal grandparents as my father’s mother does when he was 18, and his dad died when I was a year old. I have photos of him giving me his pipe when I was in a highchair. Don’t worry, I didn’t inhale. I didn’t do that until high school and that was a completely different pipe. πŸ˜‰

      As for corner time, you and Cat are mistaken. Mrs. Claus will welcome you with open lap, and I bet now she invites Cat to join you there also. Couldn’t happen to two nicer imps. 😈

      Like

  6. Season says:

    Thanks for sharing your Christmas Eve traditions! I love your post and brought back memories of experiencing them with your family when we were first getting together. Just sorry I wasn’t around in the days of the 190 proof homemade libations! :mrgreen: Being from a German Lutheran background, on of our Christmas Eve traditions was that we always opened our gifts that night and not on Christmas morning. As a kid, I could never figure out why all the Christmas movies and tv shows always did it “wrong”.

    I’m thinking we need to start our own brand new Christmas Eve tradition. Now that I’ve seen the drawing up top of you in the corner with a green elf suit and a red bottom, perhaps you should be on display for me as a red & green ornament while I cook the fish this year. πŸ˜†

    “Season’s” Greetings everyone!

    Like

    • Michael says:

      My beautiful, if cheeky, bride Season. Where to begin?

      Not surprised you zeroed in on the 190 proof booze. In true imp fashion, you do like your whine…er, wine.

      I’m glad this brought back memories of when you first met my family, now your family too. They all adore you, some more than me. Hrumph!

      Love again hearing about your Christmas traditions growing up. Made me chuckle with this about opening presents on Christmas Eve: “…why all the Christmas movies and tv shows always did it β€œwrong.” LOL

      And lastly, don’t get any ideas about new Christmas Eve traditions, young lady. You just guaranteed yourself a Christmas Eve spanking along with some corner time. Aw, who am I kidding, I had already planned a Christmas Eve good girl spanking for you along with a happy ending. πŸ˜‰

      But I do see naughty little Ana has been a bad influence on you so one day I do see you both in the corner displaying red ouchy bums. Yes, someday. 😈

      Like

    • Marybeth says:

      Season, have you read yesterday’s post? Michael is asking Santa for ouchy(for you) things. I told him Santa needs to check with you! Lol

      Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      Dear Season, I think we should talk sometime. Michael’s been rather naughty and needs some attention, and there’s been a traffic jam for the corner. I swear he likes it there! πŸ™‚

      In all seriousness, welcome and thank you for sharing in today’s festivities. Michael has added to the joy of this season in so many ways.

      Like

      • Season says:

        Thanks for welcoming me here, Ana! Michael has definitely been enjoying himself here on your blog. What’s your secret for getting him to stay in the corner? By chance do you spray it with pepperoni scent?

        Like

    • Irishey says:

      Season, it’s such a relief to finally have a positive identification of that bare bottom displayed in the corner. That earlier business of matching the polka dots on the knickers to those on Ana’s “A” seemed suspiciously circumstantial, you could say contrived. Hmm…

      Ana, Season has redeemed you. Should we celebrate? πŸ˜‰

      Michael, do remember silence is a condition of corner time. πŸ™‚

      Like

  7. minellesbreath says:

    Great Christmas traditions Michael. One of my closest friends growing up was Italian American. Both her parents emigrated here from Italy. I have such fond memories of her mom making Lasagna for Christmas day. Homemade noodles everywhere. It was pure melt in your mouth goodness to eat that lasagna!
    Christmas Eve we celebrate with my parents siblings and their kids. We all make different appetizers and later go to midnight Mass. We open presents at my parents house but still have more for Christmas day!
    I would love all the seafood Christmas Eve. For me the idea of tradition, family and friends is what the Holidays are all about.

    Season your NEW tradition sounds like a fun idea!! lol

    Like

    • Michael says:

      Minelle, so glad you enjoyed the post, but not that you enjoyed Season’s comment. Now I see THREE naughty imps huddled in the corner with bums as red as Rudolph’s nose.

      Your friend’s Christmas meal sounds delicious. My grandmother made her own pasta including the lasagne noodles for our Christmas day meal, but my mom stopped doing that cause with five children around she no longer had the time.

      We always had lasagne on Christmas day, and there were tons of other food, but whenever we had guests who weren’t Italian my mom would add a baked ham to the menu. She wouldn’t substitute it for another dish, she would ADD it to an already bountiful table. These non-Italians were what we called “merigans” which stood for Americans, but it wasn’t an insult, just an identification.

      Your Christmas traditions sound lovely, and I agree with holidays being about friends and family. A time for displaying and proclaiming that love which is there all year round but don’t articulate as we should.

      Oh, and on a personal note, Minelle, last week I received as a prize from Ana a holiday card displaying Ana’s Advent Calendar banner. Your artwork is even more amazing in person! Such brilliant artwork and vibrant colors that jump out at you. Katie with graphics and you with the art did a fabulous job. I am going to frame it and hang it in a private spot in our bedroom where Season and I can enjoy it.

      Like

  8. Leigh Smith says:

    Thank you for sharing the lovely traditions of your family. It’s the memories that make the holidays special as we try to recreate the best of our childhood.

    Like

  9. chickie says:

    Hi Michael! Thanks for sharing those memories. My grandparents came from Italy in their late teens. Christmas Eve was incredibly special for us growing up. We didn’t do the fish thing – though I distinctly remember being swatted on the rear with that damned salt cod on another occasion for making fun of it before it went into the milk bath. We had a ham and so much good food food. Kids underfoot and in the way but Grammy loved it. My best childhood memories ever are all Christmas Eve and Easter Sunday.

    Like

    • Michael says:

      Chickie, a paisan from the old country with roots to the boot. Nice. πŸ™‚

      I LOVE you getting a swat on the butt for being cheeky about the baccala. I bet you felt it because before salting it is hard as a board. Hey, that gives me an idea for new spanking implement for Season. I’m sure she’ll thank you once she is able to sit at the computer. 😈

      Merry Christmas. πŸ™‚

      Like

        • Season says:

          No worries, Chickie! Michael’s “top logic” brain seems to turn any innocent comment into some creative idea for swatting my bottom, sticking me in a corner, and the like. I usually just put beer in a sippy cup for him and turn on the NFL channel and he forgets all whatever evil genius project he was pursuing. :mrgreen:

          Like

  10. kaki says:

    Michael, I am like Roz and don’t eat any fish or seafood or lasagna. I wouldn’t starve though because I LOVE good Italian bread and butter, and of course those lovely desserts. Do they make good Italian bread in Frostbite Falls? I know other Italian families who still celebrate with the feast of the seven fishes. It is nice to hear families carrying on traditions.

    Polish tradition is to start the meal with the breaking of the Oplatki, the Christmas wafer, It starts with the oldest and works the way down to the youngest wishing a Merry Christmas. We still do this and we make homemade pierogi. We always made them with potatoes and cheese or sauerkraut. I only ate the potato ones. Now we’ve branched out and made several other meat fillings. We always had a simple dinner on Christmas Eve of ham, pierogi, rolls, and mushrooms sautΓ©ed in butter and onions which they poured cream over. I say ‘they’ because I didn’t eat them. Did you just call me a picky eater? Back to the corner with you. πŸ˜‰

    Like

      • Michael says:

        Marybeth, as I just said in my previous response, Season and I have eaten Kaki’s pierogis, (LOL Doesn’t that sound naughty, eating Kaki’s peirogis, LOL) and they are delicious. Very yummy. “-)

        Like

    • Michael says:

      Hi Kaki, thanks for stopping by even if you did bring your cheekiness. Must tell everybody that Kaki is a good friend who’ve I met in real life a couple of times back in New Jersey. I even gave her a firm butt smack in a restaurant parking lot when we met for lunch along with another spanko friend, Lady Shewolf. I also gave LSw a swift smack to the bum at the same time which made her literally yelp and jump. It drew the attention of a nearby couple getting into their car which made me smile a mile wide. 😈

      Season and I have eaten Kaki’s homemade pierogis, and believe me Marybeth, they are Delcious with a capital D.

      The Polish tradition of the Christmas Wafer is wonderfully touching. Great that you continue it till this day. πŸ™‚

      Kaki, back to the corner with me?! I think not, young lady. Ana gave me the keys to her blog today so the only corner dwellers will be naughty girls like you, Season, Ana and any other imps who misbehave. I think I’m going to run out of corners. Better work out a shift schedule.

      Like

  11. paul1510 says:

    Michael,
    thanks.
    But for the war WW11, my memories would have been very similar.
    My father came from Hamlin and my mother from Berlin.
    But I won’t enter the world of what might have been. πŸ˜‰
    I’ll just thank you for your memories and the mouth watering recipe’s. πŸ˜›
    Warm hugs,
    Paul.

    Like

    • Michael says:

      You are welcome, Paul, and you don’t have to think of “what might have been” because the way you provided for your family at Christmas, especially bringing the magic of Santa Claus to your younger sisters, are memories for a lifetime. That still reverberates with me, and I will always keep it in my heart. πŸ™‚

      Like

  12. Leah says:

    This sounds so awesome. How great that you’re continuing some of this with your own family. My guess is that the planning and prep was as much fun as the eating.

    Like

    • Michael says:

      Thanks, Leah, Christmas Eve was special and awesome growing up. You are correct – don’t all imps love hearing those words, “You are correct” – that the prep and planning was as much fun as the eating. Sort of like having two celebrations in one.

      Like

  13. Michelle B says:

    Merry Christmas to you & your family, Michael! Sounds like you grew with with a full tummy indeed – wish I could have been there, for the seafood alone! yum! πŸ™‚

    I am Acadian / French-Canadian with some Irish (and possibly others) in the mix. Although not rich, we also ate very well during the festive season with lots of homemade goodies such as breads/buns, meat pies, turkeys, hams, all their trimmings, and enough sweets to rot your entire mouth! πŸ˜€

    Acadians are like Italians in that they tend to have large families – not so much anymore, but when I was young, the families around us all had at least 1/2 dozen kids, aunts/uncles, parents/grand parents and even great-grand parents! Yes, I was lucky enough to have known my great grand parents, at least on my mother’s side of the family.

    Today, the families are smaller and the feasts are smaller but no less delicious! I live outside the province now so I will not be with my family for the holidays. I shall miss all those yummy baked goods and dishes, but I have been baking a few of the traditional treats for the first time this year (you can see the recipes from the Dec 9th recipes’ thread) and I must say, it is bringing back a lot of wonderful memories! πŸ™‚

    Like

    • Michael says:

      Michelle, you would have loved the seafood, not to mention all the other goodies.

      Growing up we were a blue collar family as were most of our family and friends. Never took vacations other than the occasional day trip down the Jersey shore (always the shore and never the beach, in New Jersey) or seeing a New York Yankees game in the Bronx. Those trips to the old Yankee Stadium with my dad and brothers are among my most favorite childhood memories, but that’s a whole different post. Okay, where was I? Blue collar, right. Even though from a blue collar environment there was always food on the table, and especially so during the holidays. And there was always enough for any unexpected guest who popped in which happened quite often.

      Michelle, your heritage sounds amazing – Acadian / French-Canadian with some Irish and other ethnicities mixed in. And your Christmas traditions sound lovely. You were indeed lucky to know your maternal great grandparents. I am actually getting to know mine a little better as Season and I are investigating our family trees through Ancestry.com

      I hope your family recipes come out perfect (yes, I remember them from the December 9 Advent Day) and it makes you feel closer to your far away family. Please let us know how they turn out. πŸ™‚

      Merry Christmas to you and your family, Michelle.

      Like

      • Michelle B says:

        oh it was delicious! Yes, I said “was” πŸ˜€ I made 1 batch of shortbread and 2 batches of chocolate macaroons already with more to be made over the weekend – possibly a jelly roll in the coming week as well.. we’ll see what else I might experiment on! πŸ˜€ (and although I did indulge, most of it was passed out to my colleagues – thank goodness!!!)

        Like

        • Michael says:

          Great job, Michelle. It all sounds very yummy. And you showed the Christmas Spirit and great will power sharing with your colleagues. Nicely done. πŸ™‚

          Like

    • Michael says:

      Thanks Erzabrat…oops, I mean Erzabet. I love calamari but Season doesn’t. We were out to dinner with friends last Friday and I ordered calamari for the table as an appetizer and Season nibbled at one piece but never finished it. I give her points for trying. She is a real trouper. I think I’ll keep her. Oh, who am I kidding, I’m damn lucky she keeps me. Damn lucky.

      Merry Christmas, Erzabet πŸ™‚

      Like

  14. abby says:

    Thanks Michael, i love hearing about other cultures traditions, and cherished memories. When i tell my grands they are doing the same thing grandma did when she was little, they love it. (Actually i think it stretches their imaginations trying to picture me as a 5 year old).
    Some of the traditions of my French Canadian family include….midnight mass, pork pie for breakfast, and getting to open 1 gift on Christmas eve….always was pajamas…!
    hugs abby

    Like

  15. JC says:

    Thank you, Michael, for sharing your wonderful memories. I’m with with Roz though, I don’t care for seafood. Everyone in my family loves seafood, but I only like tuna. 😦 Lasagna on Christmas day sounds amazing!

    Merry Christmas

    Season, thank you for allowing us to make fun of Michael and stick him in the corner! I like you idea for a new tradition. He had had plenty of practice the last couple weeks so he should be able to stand there for a long time πŸ™‚

    Like

    • Michael says:

      JC, my new friend.
      JC, my new cheeky friend who scrutinizes my every comment and takes great delight in pointing put my typos and then yanking my chain very hard. Yes, I did see your cheeky comment above about the Italian bread but haven’t yet responded. But I will, young lady. I most definitely will. 😈

      As I responded to Roz earlier in the comment where you gleefully jumped on my typo, naughty girl, even if you don’t like seafood there was so much other good food you would not have gone hungry.

      Homemade lasagna on Christmas is amazing. My mom made it only twice a year, on Christmas and Easter. It remained special that way, and now is always associated with those two holidays for me and my siblings.

      JC, Season is enjoying my treatment, specifically corner time treatment, by all the wonderful women here at Ana’s place. But since Ana turned over her blog to me today and Mrs. Claus has lent me her wooden spoon, the only corner time will be for Ana, Season and any other misbehaving imps. Goes without saying you’ll be joining them in the corner rubbing your ouchy bum. 😈

      Like

  16. Kelsey Summer says:

    Great memories, Michael. I only had one Italian grandmother, but she was the one who was always with us. So even though the rest of the family was old Yankee or Irish, we too, usually went with the Italian traditions. Fish on Christmas eve (not 7 kinds, but fish). There was always calamari. Pasta was (and still is) macaroni, and Christmas dinner is always lasagne. My grandmother passed away 20 years ago Thanksgiving week and I still miss her terribly at Christmas time.

    Like

    • Michael says:

      Kelsey, you are part Italian which means you are Italian. You are familiar with the traditions and sounds like your grandmother was a big influence and a marvelous person.
      So glad you enjoyed my memories and allowed me to share them with you. Thank you. πŸ™‚

      Like

  17. P.T. Wyant says:

    What wonderful memories, Michael. Thank you for sharing them.

    We didn’t really have any traditional foods, and the main “tradition” for Christmas was that it was spread out over multiple days with various assortments of friends and families.

    (Decorating the tree was the most consistent tradition — maybe that’s why most of my Christmas memories seem to focus around the tree.)

    We usually had turkey both at home and at my maternal grandparents’. The only other food thing that sticks in my mind was a bar cookie that my paternal grandfather made that had candied fruit in it. (I need to try to track down that recipe…)

    Like

    • Michael says:

      And thank you, P.T., for taking the time to read them and comment. Much appreciated. πŸ™‚

      Great that your family spread Christmas out over a few days. Made the holiday all the more special to last that long.

      Decorating the Christmas tree is a wonderful tradition and am so happy it has given you many fond memories.

      Merry Christmas to you and your family, P.T. πŸ™‚

      Like

  18. Holla Dean says:

    Michael, I love reading about the Christmas traditions of other families. While our menu was different, your household sounds very much like mine. We grew up in two-flat and my grandparents lived on the first floor and we were on the second floor. My mother would dash up and down the stairs using her oven and my grandma’s oven. Plus she had another oven in the basement along with an extra fridge. I have four siblings and the five of us would race up and down tasting what Oma was making, sneaking 7-up that Opa slipped us when Mom wasn’t looking, running out in the yard to play in the snow, and driving everyone crazy. Our menu was a combination of German, Austrian, and Hungarian dishes. We never had the more traditional turkey or ham that most Americans have. Christmas Eve was Austrian dumplings with sauerkraut, Hungarian guylas (made with veal), a variety of side dishes, and dessert was marzipan, my mom’s cookies and cakes, and Oma’s strudel. Christmas Day was two huge beef tenderloins for the main course. Those ovens were running non-stop!
    Reading your post and all these comments makes me even more excited about heading back for Christmas this year.
    Thanks for a lovely post of your memories. Merry Christmas to you and Season and your family!

    Like

    • Michael says:

      Hiya HD,

      Big families having boisterious, fun and loving holiday get togethers crosses many ethnic and cultural boundries. I love your description of your family sharing a two flat using each other’s ovens and running up and down stairs. That wasn’t our house but I had relatives with almost that same setup. We did have Jewish neighbors and around the Jewish holidays they often would use our fridge and oven to help ease the load with the crush of their visiting relatives.

      Your holiday menu sounds delicious, and love the story of your Opa slipping 7-Up to you and your siblings. Great memory. πŸ™‚

      Merry Christmas to you and your family.

      Like

  19. JoanneBest says:

    Thank you Michael, your post has stirred up so many memories, all of them yummy and for some reason I’m hungry now πŸ˜€
    I’ve mentioned my Family traditions, the harried day of over the bridge and through the hood to Grandmother’s house we went ending with a stop at Aunt Rose’s house where you’d see the most beautiful Christmas tree ever; every year she did a different theme and she was known for her talent with Christmas tree decorations- sadly her talent didn’t extend to cooking as one year she made mashed potatoes and grabbed the chocolate milk to mix in rather than regular milk, it was quite a sight to behold but luckily Aunt Rose had a good sense of humor and she had the whole house laughing along as she cackled like Dominic the Donkey πŸ˜€
    Aunt Rose was instrumental in my reading obsession; she worked at a bookstore and brought home every single coverless book in the store (they send the covers of unsold books back to the publisher) and she had one room that was wall to wall, floor to ceiling bookcases filled with books of every kind; she’d give me a grocery bag and tell me to fill that bag to the top with any books I wanted and to come back for more when I was done reading them, And that’s how I wound up reading Harold Robbins ‘Carpetbaggers’ and Lady Chatterly’s Lover at 10 years old ;).

    I mentioned that I grew up in the Italian section of Newark, and my Grandparents and Aunts and Uncles all lived on the same street, a handful of Irish in the midst of all the Italians equaled a heck of a lot of awesome recipes for Mom, as I mentioned before, the honeyballs (I have the name written down, thanks for that too Michael!) and the Italian knots and of course she learned how to make the best gravy in the world. (they say sauce, I say gravy :D)to go with the (wait for it) macaroni πŸ˜€
    We didn’t do the Feast of The Seven Fishes but we always gathered at Nana’s house to celebrate Grandpa’s birthday, I don’t remember what we ate back then, I’d be huddled in a corner with a book and I didn’t care much for eating when I was a kid (I can’t count how many times I had to sit at the kitchen table until I finished my plate- cold peas for a kid was nasty,lol, when I think about it, I remember my Dad would drive to the store and come back with milkshakes for me, begging me to eat something, anything!)
    Oh but the memories of everything are slowly coming back thanks to you Michael (I was only 4 when we moved from Newark to Sayreville), next door was ‘Uncle’ Joe who grew his own grapes and tomatoes etc, right around the corner was the best lemon ice I ever tasted and I remember the man who drove around with his cart yelling “strawberries, blueberries, che-er-er-ries” and all the Moms would run outside to buy fresh fruit and vegetables
    Oh do I ever miss those days.
    So we’re 6 days away from Christmas and I still have to shop (yay internet and next day delivery!) but I can’t get myself moving, as if putting it off will somehow make it easier without Mom, because that hangs over my head so heavy… my Dad just gave me Mom’s Nativity Set she had since they got married, it’s 65 years old and still holding strong, a little bit of Mom will be here with me, although I know she’s with me every day in my heart.
    Sorry, not trying to bring anyone down so I shall end on a good note with another memory from the old days; my Aunt Geri had Muscular Dystrophy and was in a wheelchair since she was 18 years old, she would lay in bed and I’d sit in her chair talking to her while wheeling around the room (she encouraged me to do so) and we’d laugh and laugh over everything and nothing, it was always a joyous day at Nana’s and as I look back, there is not one thing I would change; we were poor but we had so much love for each other and always had gifts for each other; I remember getting my allowance and saving up five whole dollars and still managed to buy gifts for everyone with that $5- my Aunt Geri was a cat lover and I still remember being so proud of the framed picture of a kitten I bought her which she immediately hung on the wall where it stayed until she died at the age of 40. Nana gave me the picture after Aunt Geri was gone and now it hangs on my wall.
    Family, Faith, Love, we had it all as far as I was concerned. I never cared for money or expensive gifts, to me it means more to get something small, maybe even hand made. I’ve been trying every year to get hubby and his sis to start that tradition but they won’t go for it.
    One of the best gifts I ever received was a hand bound blank book from my friend Shawn, she’s an artist and encouraged me to sketch as well as write, she knew me better than I knew myself because that book is what made me discover I had a talent for sketching I never knew existed
    I sure can talk, hee! πŸ˜€ Now if I could just get back to finishing one of my WIP’s perhaps I’ll be lucky enough to join such wonderful writers as you all are…. hmm, maybe I should add some spanking to one (or 3) of my WIP’s, my girl characters do tend to be a little bratty πŸ˜‰
    Thank you once again Michael, Merry Christmas to you and Season, to me, it appears as if you two have a marriage to be so proud of. Your love for Season shines through every time you mention her, I wish a love like yours was possible for every single one of us, you are both truly Blessed to have found each other ❀
    PS: please excuse any typos or nonsense, I'm typing with one eye open because I have severe allergies to cats and dogs (said the girl with 5 animals :D) and today even the darn drops don't work…all I can say is oy vey!

    Like

    • Michael says:

      Joanne, thank you so much for your tender remembrances. Loved hearing about your Aunt Rose and Aunt Jeri. And how about your dad giving you your mom’s Nativity! That is so precious and moving. I know it has been tough, this first Christmas without your mom, but from what I can see, and I’m sure others will agree, you are doing an amazing job of staying strong for yourself and your family, especially your dad.

      I worked in a book store during college and I brought home many coverless books to help fuel my reading habit. But I must admit you have me beat (!) reading Harold Robbins and “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” at age ten. That may explain why you grew up to be such a precocious imp. πŸ˜‰

      Great how your friend got you in touch with your creative side with that notebook gift from your friend Shawn. I have been on your site but haven’t yet seen everything. Are any of your drawings there? I would love to see your artwork.

      Hmmm, some of your female characters are bratty. I wonder where they got that from?

      Oh, and remember I mentioned I have relatives in both Newark and Sayreville? The Sayreville cousins moved there from Newark. They lived in the Ironbound section.

      I am so happy my love for Season shines through my comments because she is everything to me. I love her more every single day.

      Thank you so much. Joanne, for leaving such a heartfelt comment and sharing with us.

      Merry Christmas to you, your dad, and the rest of your family. πŸ™‚

      P.S. Don’t worry about any typos you may have made or ever will make because the only person ever held accountable for typos around here is me. With meanies JC and Ana following me around with a ruler waiting for any missteps so they can smack me into the corner. It’s so unfair. *pout*

      Like

      • JC says:

        Pouting? Really, Michael! What good is that going to do you? I thought pouting just earns extra punishment? I would say you need to go back to the corner but we are not yet done with our plotting. πŸ˜‰ It is going to be good!

        Like

  20. Renee Rose says:

    Thank you for sharing your Italian Christmas. My stepmom is Italian and so it my mother-in-law, so I’ve had some of the traditions you speak of. I know my dad just loved how big and loud and boisterous his wife’s family was compared to his quiet small family!!

    Like

    • Michael says:

      So Renee, you have experienced some of what I wrote about. That is great.
      I’m with your dad about the joy of big family get togethers. Some of our in-laws were from small families and were astounded how loud we could get, but they all enjoyed the experiences.
      Season comes from a big family so it wasn’t a shock to her system to experience large gatherings, but she did say that my family was louder than her family. I take that as a compliment. πŸ™‚

      Merry Christmas, Renee. πŸ™‚

      Like

  21. quiet sara says:

    I was glad to see you participated this way as I have enjoyed reading all your quips throughout Ana’s Advent. One of my mil’s is Italian and they always have lasagna and seafood for Christmas. I thought that strange but only because I didn’t grow up with that. πŸ™‚ You get used to the traditions you grow up with. Thank you for sharing these with us.
    Merry Christmas

    sara

    Like

    • Michael says:

      Sara, I am so happy you have been enjoying my quips, even though some of them land me in the corner. Hey! Maybe that’s why you like them so much. Hmmm.

      Yes, one is familiar with one’s own customs growing up, but it is great to be exposed to more cultures and experiences as we grow up. Actually, some people say I still haven’t grown up, right Ana?

      Merry Christmas, Sara. πŸ™‚

      Like

  22. Ami says:

    Your description of Christmas Eve in an Italian household is magical. It is interesting because I had heard of this tradition but not really known what was eaten apart from ‘fish’. Being half Polish we have a meal on Christmas Eve consisting of 13 ‘meatless’ dishes, one for each of the twelve apostles and one for Jesus, and then we go to Midnight Mass in our local village church which is lit just by candles.

    I think our memories of childhood Christmases are the best, and it’s important that we give our own children wonderful memories too, so that they can relate to their own kids one day.

    You never mentioned drinking Limoncello. We have some each Christmas, and I have now managed to get a recipe for making it, from some Italian friends.

    Thank you for sharing these memories with us, and have a wonderful Christmas!

    Hugs
    Ami

    Like

    • Michael says:

      Ami, so happy you found our Christmas Eve traditions magical. That makes me feel wonderful. πŸ™‚

      Thanks for explaining about the Polish Christmas Eve tradition of the thirteen meatless dishes. I didn’t know that.

      Midnight Mass in your village church lit by candles sounds amazing. Now that must really be magical.

      I agree about our childhood memories being special and should be passed down to children, along with creating new ones for them.

      For some reason we didn’t have Limoncello or not that I remember. There might have been a bottle somewhere. What I remember best is the Anisette, Amaretto, Sambuca, Campari, Frangelico and Strega. Season loves Limoncello and currently that is our apΓ©ritif of choice.

      Merry Christmas, Ami πŸ™‚

      Like

  23. Renee Meyer says:

    Michael, thank you for sharing your memories… You actually reminded me of one Christmas when I was a child. One of my father’s wives was Italian-American and we went there for Christmas Eve. They had the traditional meal of seven fishes. It was really yummy and a very different experience. Thanks for bringing the memory forward. May you and your family have a wonderful holiday.

    Like

    • Michael says:

      So glad you liked the post, Renee, and that it brought back a good memory for you. Great that you experienced the feast of the seven fishes and that you found it yummy.

      Merry Christmas to you and your family. πŸ™‚

      Like

    • Michael says:

      Jaye, turkey is good, and many families on this side of the pond feast on that for Christmas.

      And you could have stopped your sentence after the word lovers: “Italians are such wonderful lovers…” 😈

      Like

  24. Thianna D says:

    Except for the fact I know we ate Scalloped Potatoes & Ham every Xmas, I don’t remember any traditions.

    Love the story about your grandfather. The man could definitely hold his liquor.

    Like

    • Michael says:

      Scalloped potatoes and ham are very yummy, Thianna,

      LOL My grandpa sure could hold his liquor, and he usually held it in his mouth. πŸ˜‰

      Like

  25. Tara Finnegan says:

    Michael,

    Thank God I’m not Italian. All that food sounds way, way too good to be wholesome. I’m licking my lips in delight as I read of all those yummy fish and pasta dishes.
    I sure hope those alcohol recipes were handed down the generations as well as the food ones!
    Thank you for this gastronomic feast by proxy – it was sumptious.

    Like

    • Michael says:

      Tara, I am so happy you commented because it was your Irish Christmas post which triggered my own Christmas Eve memories, and Ana was very gracious in allowing me to post my story here. Big difference between our celebrations, Tara, is we ate first then went to Midnight Mass while your family had that their feast after Midnight Mass. Amazing how your family celebrated well into the night.

      Merry Christmas to you and yours, Tara. πŸ™‚

      Like

      • Tara Finnegan says:

        I think my family were pretty good about putting the cart before the horse )or getting things bum about face.) Probably made much more sense to do your eating first. I didn’t tell all the family secrets, like how it would be around about noon time before we all surfaced after playing the night away. Or how Christmas dinner wasn’t ready until 7 or 8 pm as it takes a long time to cook a turkey, and it should have been in the oven roundabout 8 or 9 am πŸ˜‰
        But that said it was still so much fun and Santy coming the night before bought the *oldies more sleep time after a very late night.
        *(as we thought of them then, and bless their hearts they were only in their early 20’s when I was born)

        Like

  26. Irishey says:

    Michael, these are wonderful memories. I truly enjoyed your descriptions of your family’s Christmas traditions, your heritage and religious observances. The food sounds amazing. I loved reading about your grandfather and neighbors making wine and visiting each other to share and taste.

    On Christmas Eve, we traditionally have oyster stew and several other seafood varieties, such as those you listed, as entrees, hors d’oeuvres, dips, etc. Must of us love seafood. Rarely do we include fish on Christmas Eve, but we also usually have honeyed ham, beef meatballs in a savory spiced mushroom sauce, and whole mushrooms sauteed in a buttery, light beef au jus.

    I hope your Christmas is filled with light, love, joy, peace and many blessings for you, Season and your families.

    Like

    • Michael says:

      Irishey, I am so happy you enjoyed the post so much. That makes me smile really big. πŸ™‚

      Grandpa was one of a kind and I still miss him after all these years. 😦

      Your Christmas Eve repast sounds delicious especially the mushroom sauce and mushrooms. I love mushrooms.

      Christmas Blessings to you and your loved ones, Irishey.

      Like

    • Michael says:

      Hi angieia,

      Great you enjoyed the post. Christmas Eve dinner was a sit down meal. My grandfather had a big metal banquet table – no idea where he got it from – and that would be set up at the end of the dining room table and run into the living room. My mom and grandmother would sit at the end nearest the kitchen and shuttle back and forth into the kitchen checking on the courses and bringing back plates of food. My dad and grandpa would also go in to help and when we kids got older we would also help.

      Merry Christmas to you and yours. πŸ™‚

      Like

    • Michael says:

      LOL Love that your mouth is watering, Emily. There are some restaurants which do the Feast of the Seven Fishes and do them well. You should check to see if any offer that in your area.

      Merry Christmas! πŸ™‚

      Like

  27. Janey says:

    Thank you Michael
    I love the traditions which surround your Christmas and I think they are so important to pass on to the younger ones either in whole or in part. Obviously when you get married you join another with slightly different traditions and have to discover some of your own.
    We have family traditions from when I was growing up, normally around all the generations of women preparing food ready for Christmas Day on Christmas Eve, spending all day chopping and cooking then for my grandma to rub her hands together at the end, get her purse out and give one of the men some money to go and buy everyone fish and chips. (She had an old fashioned idea of how much fish and chips really cost though, so my uncle would normally take her money, add his own to it, buy the food, come back and give her most of her money back in change!)
    On Christmas Day the women again would cook but after dinner were expected to put their feet up while all the men in the house washed up the dishes and tidied the kitchen.
    Another great tradition in our house growing up was that we could never get into trouble on Christmas Day. All the parents were very patient, bit their tongues and put up with all that we wanted to do. We soon found out not to try it again on Boxing Day though. I’m not sure that hubby is really on board with this tradition applying to his wife though. I might remind him that I can’t be in trouble on Christmas Day.

    Like

    • Michael says:

      Janey, your traditions are similar to ours with the women mainly doing the cooking on both Christmas Eve and Christmas and the men doing dishes and cleanup. Love the story of your grandma and the fish and chips. Later on with my mom whenever I grocery shopped for her I would give her most of her money back, but she knew what I was doing and it was like a tug of war in reverse as we pushed the money back and forth towards the other.

      And what’s this about not getting into trouble on Christmas?! That may work for kids but not for naughty wives. I bet your husband will agree with me. πŸ˜‰

      Merry Christmas to you and your family, Janey. πŸ™‚

      Like

  28. Tracey Horton says:

    Growing up we didn’t have any traditions but I have spent time helping my kids find our own traditions. My father is Ukrainian and my husband’s family is Polish. Anyone who knows these two cultures, knows the food is exactly the same just different terms. So we have pierogies, golumbki, and kielbasa. And our favorite is chrusciki which is similar to fried dough! Also referred to as angels wings.

    Traditions are important as they ground us and give you a sense of being. So glad you have your traditions. My best friend since I was 7 is Sicilian and they had the fish and seafood. I loved how her family was so large and LOUD!!

    I love the banter you initiate and truly enjoy you. You and Season have a Merry Christmas!!

    Like

    • Michael says:

      Tracey, I LOVE all that Polish food you mentioned. Chrusciki is to die for. Sprinkled with powdered sugar it is soooo good. I didn’t realize that Polish and Ukrainian food was so similar. Thanks for the information.

      Sounds like your friend’s family was just like ours.

      Glad you enjoy the banter so much. Seems you have a better sense of humor, Tracey, than a certain meanie blog impstress we all love and fear. Not that I’m naming any names.

      Like

  29. Arleen says:

    Thanks for sharing, Micheal. It brings back memories. My sister-in-law is Italian-American and my family was lucky enough to share a few Christmas Eve’s with her and her family enjoying a very similar experience to the one you described. It was lots of fun and the food was fantastic!! We do most of our celebration on Christmas Day but it was nice to be a part of both for a short while. I love reading about the customs that others have to celebrate the holiday!! Have a wonderful Christmas.

    Like

    • Michael says:

      Arleen, great that you experienced the Feast of the Seven Fishes and enjoyed it so much. Glad those memories were brought back to you.

      Merry Christmas, Arleen. πŸ™‚

      Like

  30. Katy Beth McKee says:

    Thanks for sharing. I really don’t like fish so I don’t think I would enjoy that tradition as much. My dad was southern but my mom would whine if he tried to cook traditional food so we grew up eating pretty plain and ordinary stuff like ham. My husband’s family is Norwegian descent. Lefesa (sp?) spread with butter and sugar is a family favorite. . One year I tried cooking a traditional meal but man it was a lot of work. Several dishes involve a heavy sauce that must be stirred constantly.

    Like

    • Michael says:

      Katy Beth, there was so much food you would have still had your fill without touching any seafood. I bet your dad’s southern cooking would have been delicious.
      Lot of Norwegian and Scandinavian heritage here in Minnesota but I am NOT going to try lutefisk which looks like fish jello, and about which I have heard horror stories. Though lots of locals love it.

      http://scandinavianfood.about.com/od/scandinavianfoodglossary/g/Lutefisk.htm

      Merry Christmas to you and your family. πŸ™‚

      Like

      • Katy Beth McKee says:

        No Lutefisk at all. Husband’s family is from Minnesota. Why would anyone eat fish literally soaked in lye. Funny thing when visiting Norway a few years ago my in-laws asked why there was no lutefisk being sold anywhere. The answer well there are a few places that cater to American tourist who have added it BUT it is consider a very low class food for the poorest or for travelers. Not regular food at all. Because Norwegian American’s mostly came by boat they ate it while traveling and it became a comfort food but Norwegians don’t usually eat it. Second food funny best pizza I ever had was in this little restaurant in northern Norway on the Russian border. The place was run my Russian immigrants. The menu had about 50 combinations all numbered and written in 6 languages. You ordered by number. And you got Coke, water still, water sparkling. It was wonderful.

        Like

  31. Natasha Knight says:

    I’m hungry now, thank you Michael. πŸ™‚ That was lovely. I especially love the homemade wine story. My aunt who is French makes her own wine. I had a taste of it this summer when we visited her in Nice and my husband kind of gave me a look when I went for a second glass. I realized why after my nap that afternoon…

    I love memories like this. They are sweet and at times a little sad that time has passed but they’re important. We didn’t have many Christmas traditions when I was growing up – we came form another culture to the US and I think my parents never really integrated fully and that’s ok. With my own family now, I love knowing that we’re making traditions and my kids will say things about traditions or ‘our family tradition is…’ It feels really great and I know we’re making memories, hopefully happy ones for them that they will remember forever.

    Thanks for your post.

    Like

    • Michael says:

      You are welcome, Natasha, and thank you for your heartfelt comment.

      Christmas memories are bittersweet as they bring a flood of emotions both good and bad with the bad being mostly that these people are now gone.

      I love you are making your own special memories with kids, and I am sure they will be happy ones.

      Would love to try your aunt’s nap inducing wine. Sounds very powerful.

      Merry Christmas to you and your family. πŸ™‚

      Like

    • Marybeth says:

      My aunt made elderberry wine, Natasha. I had a small glass once when I was a teenager. OMG, I had a headache for 2 days. The best, though, was our neighbor who made hard cider. He had stuff that was decades old. That was smooth. Nothing like the stuff they sell here in the states as hard cider!

      Like

  32. catrouble says:

    Hey Michael…Thanks for sharing such lovely holiday memories. I love all kinds of seafood so would have loved to visit with your family on Christmas Eve.

    As a child, our Christmas Eve tradition was a bit quieter…we attended Midnight Mass and then came home to ‘midnight bites’ of small treats and then we were allowed to open 1 gift. Christmas morning we opened stockings and gifts and then started cooking…my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins…any family that was in town showed up for dinner. Some years we had two adult tables and kids were sat on the floor with newspaper as a ‘tablecloth’. We kids liked that best because that meant we were placed in the living room away from the adults!

    Oh and Michael…Mrs. C likes to decide who goes in the corner…she doesn’t like it when someone cons someone else to take their place! That will get both someones put in the corner…and from what I’ve read above (and throughout the Advent calendar), you definitely need corner time. Oh and did anyone mention that corner time means quiet? πŸ˜‰

    Blessings…Cat

    Like

    • catrouble says:

      Oh and forgot to say thank you for reminding me of something my grandpa did that I’d forgotten about…he made his own liqueur every year and my dad always swore is was 180 proof! Don’t know if it was or just dad’s way of saying is was strong but grandpa always invited all his neighbors to drop by on New Year’s Eve for a drink to the new year. For those who were housebound, he visited them with the bottle and took his own glasses so that they didn’t have to even wash up! No, he wasn’t Italian…he was second generation Scots/Irish. πŸ˜€

      Like

      • Michael says:

        Also, absolutely LOVE your grandfather’s liqueur, and that he not only invited neighbors over but visited housebound ones and even brought the glasses. He sounds like a great man.

        Merry Christmas, Cat. πŸ™‚

        Like

    • Michael says:

      Cat, you would have been most welcome in our home. There would have always been an open corner for you. 😈

      Your Christmas Eve celebration may have been quieter but it sounds lovely.
      What a hoot! The kids were on newspapers eating on the floor. I love it!

      And little miss Cat, you forget that for today Mrs. Claus has lent me her wooden spoon for naughty imps like you. Doesn’t take a clairvoyant to see you standing in the corner glowing along with little miss Season and naughty Ana.

      Like

  33. Blondie says:

    Michael, thanks for sharing. I am rather jealous of your traditions. Neither my husband or myself have any traditions that we have continued. With our children, we usually drive around on Christmas Eve and look at the beautiful Christmas lights and we always attend Christmas Eve Service at our church. And we have a Christmas dinner with roast “beast” for dinner.
    And I agree with your wife, Ana and Irishey…..

    Like

    • Michael says:

      Hey Blondie,

      Please don’t be jealous. You are starting your own traditions with your kids and that is wonderful. πŸ™‚
      I love the idea of diving around on Christmas Eve looking at all the magical Christmas lights. That’s a tradition I want to start with Season this year. Thanks for the inspiration.

      Oh, you agree with Season, Ana and Irishey that I am an erudite gentleman with impeccable manners and charm. Why thank you, my dear. πŸ™‚

      Blondie, may I ask what color is your hair? πŸ˜‰

      Like

  34. Kathryn R. Blake says:

    Thank you for sharing your memories with us, Michael. I love calamari, though I was reluctant to try it at first. I’ve never had them with marinara sauce since I usually eat the small circles fried like onion rings without any sauce. Very tasty. I haven’t eaten scungilli, but I don’t recall seeing it served on any menus here. Not sure conch is popular in the mid-west. I’ll have to look for it.

    When I was growing up, our Christmas dinner tradition used to involve lamb. Unfortunately, hubby doesn’t like lamb and the thought of eating an innocent baby creature at Christmas just seemed wrong to him. So, now we have Christmas Pizza and celebrate our festive meal on Christmas Eve instead. The 24th happens to be hubby’s birthday as well, so we treat him to a dinner out some place special every year. That’s not always easy since a lot of the good restaurants aren’t open on Christmas Eve.

    Thank you again for your post, Michael, and I wish both you and your brave Season a very Merry Christmas. I consider her brave since you appear to be a very hard task master at times, though I suspect that is only one of the reasons she loves you.

    Happy Holidays to all.

    Like

    • Michael says:

      Kathryn, I am so delighted you enjoyed the post. Calamari is not to everyone’s taste, just ask my wife, and if you ever get a chance to try in in marinara sauce I bet you’d like it. In addition to the round shape I like the tentacles which are crunchy.

      Too bad your husband doesn’t like lamb, but Christmas pizza sounds awesome!

      Your husband’s birthday is Christmas Eve? Isn’t it wonderful how everybody puts up lights and decorates for his special day?

      Kathryn, I may be tough but I am fair. I think Season would agree. You should ask her.

      Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas. πŸ™‚

      Like

  35. laurellasky says:

    Thank you Michael,

    Your descriptions of the food served were wonderful. I grew up in a Jewish family and our dinners were different. Depending on where you or your family came from.determinrd what kind of food you had. There are Italian Jews that eat almost as you do, but if they are kosher they cannot eat scavenger seafood like crabs, lobster, shrimp but can eat most fish. Eastern Jews eat things like chulent whis is slow cooked all night in the bakery as you are not allowed to cook during the Sabath which runs from sundown Friday until sundown on Saturday. Chulent can be made many ways, again depending where you were from. Usually some kind of beef goes in, pototos, beans, and sometimes hard boiled eggs. It’s like a stew. There is also a vegetarian version. In Arab countries sweet things are put in like prunes, raisins, ect.
    Different holidays called for different types of food. Lots of it would not be allowed now because its very rich, uses fat (call smaltz) made from chicken fat. Also the skin of chicken was fried and tasted great but today it’s a no no. (Called gribinis)
    During Hanukkah jelly donuts are eaten and latkes or pototo pancakes, also fried. If we ate like that today are arteries would be so clogged we would need a roter rooter. So in some ways we are the same and in other ways we are different. I grew up in a Jewish, Italian neighbor and we all got along well and culturally we were the same.

    Like

    • Michael says:

      Hi Laurel,

      Glad you liked the post. Thank you for telling us about that Jewish food. When I worked in New York City I tried many Jewish delicacies. I still jones for good latkes, and for delicious rugelach I would willing go into the corner. I love that pastry. But shhhh, don’t tell Ana.

      I grew up in an ethnic neighborhood primarily Italian, German and Jewish. Neighbors on each side of us were German Jews. Later on I knew some Jewish families who celebrated Christmas not as a religious holiday, but as a fun holiday for their kids with the legend of Santa Claus and putting up a Christmas tree.

      Happy Holidays, Laurel. πŸ™‚

      Like

      • laurellasky says:

        Hi Michael,

        I also grew up in a Italian and Jewish neighborhood and we also considered Christmas a holiday and we also got two weeks off of school. I hope you have a happy, healthy and peaceful year.
        I loved all your input, Laurel

        Like

  36. octoberwoman says:

    Goodness, that sounds like a lot of food! Our menu hasn’t varied in as long as I can remember – turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, corn, green bans, dressing, cranberry sauce, and crescent rolls. We used to have lots of desserts as my grandma always baked several pies, but since she passed away my mom serves store bought pies or cheesecake, and I usually fix deviled eggs and either cookies or brownies.

    Like

  37. pieclown says:

    Hi Michael,
    Thank you for sharing. I was raised by my grandparent on my dad’s side. We did not do any thing that I can point to and say that was a German heritage. Now my grandma did make homemade sugar cookies. This was a great thing. My sister and I helped. She did most of the mixing. My sister and I did help as we got older. Rolling out the dough and using the cookie cutters. After they were cooked, we tried to decorate them with sprinkles and such. No frosting. May be my grandma knew I might make a cookie a pie and plant it on my sister.
    Well I will say that is about it, there, but my mom’s did did a have special seafood dish. Oyster salad. Think tuna salad, but not a messy and used as a side dish. I have tried to make it a few time, but it is a little $$.

    Like

    • Michael says:

      Hiya Pieclown,

      Those sugar cookies sound yummy.
      A cookie pie to plant in your sister’s face! LOL You are so bad.

      Oyster salad sounds great. I have never had that before.

      Merry Christmas! πŸ™‚

      Like

  38. sassytwatter says:

    I’m starving now after reading that sounds like a wonderful way to celebrate with family & food. I hope you have kept someone these traditions as they are very special. Reminds me of my Swedish grandparents & Christmas tradition which was about food & drink also celebrated on the 24th. Beautiful post able to picture it my head off to go grab something to nibble on now. I think you are perfectly well behaved and deserve to come out of the corner. A big holiday hello to Season as well.

    Like

  39. Terry says:

    Hi Micheal
    That you for sharing your memories from your family’s Italian-American Christmas. All I can say is YUM!!! I like seafood so your 7 fishes dinners sound wonderful. I’m not sure about the eel though, I have eaten it in sushi but not in any other dish. We have several big Italian fruit and vegetable markets near us that are always filled with homemade pasta, meats, seafood and heavenly baked goods. They are not places to go when you are hungry. I would love to try your grandfather’s wine. Going to the neighbors with bottles of homemade wine to share sounds like a fun custom.

    Like

    • Michael says:

      Hey Terry,

      Glad you liked the post so much, especially my grandpa making the rounds with his wine. You would have fit right in with at dinner with all the seafood.
      The Italian Markets sound great. Had many back in New Jersey. Wish we had a few of those out here in Frostbite Falls.

      Merry Christmas, Terry. πŸ™‚

      Like

  40. Katie says:

    Hi Michael! And Season too! And thank you for the yummy cookie recipe, Season!! πŸ™‚

    I enjoyed reading about your Christmas Eve celebrations growing up, with the 7 fishes!! Sounds like it was a wonderful time for you growing up. πŸ™‚ Thank you for sharing.

    While my Christmas Eves as a child was spent listening to my parents read The Night Before Christmas, perhaps midnight mass as we got older, and being allowed to open one gift from a relative, Rob’s celebration was much like yours. He is also second generation Italian American and we have spent many a Christmas Eve in quite the same way as you- gathering after an early Christmas Eve mass, exchanging gifts amongst family and eating and drinking wine. I think that the Christmas Eve dinner with the 7 fishes is one of my very favs all year round. The assortment of foods is mouth watering- my fav being the calamari, scallops and shrimp over spaghetti. YUM! It is a wonderful time! You are right.

    I smiled at your description of your grandfather, visiting and exchanging wines. Then wondering how he got home, always appearing fine, only to perhaps end up in a chair. That was so Rob’s dad through the years- though he didn’t go round to others, he certainly enjoyed his share, and never seemed to show any sign of having had more than his share. LOL! He is no longer with us, though we carry on each year. He is missed, and we know that he would be happy knowing that we do so. We have such great memories, don’t we? Please pass the cannolis!!!! LOL! Thanks Michael! I enjoyed this. Many hugs,

    ❀ Katie

    Like

    • Michael says:

      Katie, so glad you enjoyed the post, and even more that you have experienced the Feast of the Seven Fishes.

      Love that growing up your parents read Twas the Night Before Christmas. That is so perfect.

      FYI Last week as a prize I received the holiday card with Ana’s Advent Calendar’s banner. Your graphics work is excellent, and really compliments Minelle’s artwork. I am going to frame it and hang it in our bedroom where only Season and I can see it.

      Merry Christmas! πŸ™‚

      Like

  41. dd says:

    Hi Michael and Season and Ana, good to see you in new settings.

    Loved the descriptions of Italian/American Christmas. As divorced children with Anglo Irish/English parents with a Czech stepmother, we ended up with the best of both. Celebrated Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and totally blitzed by Boxing Day when Godparents came visiting!

    Hugs, dd

    Like

    • Michael says:

      dd, so wonderful you stopped by. Thank you so much. πŸ™‚
      You certainly come from a mixed background which covered a lot of cultures. Sounds like covered all the bases from Christmas Eve through Boxing Day.

      Merry Christmas to you, hubby and the junior imps. πŸ™‚

      Like

  42. Sherilyn says:

    Greetings to you, Michael and Season! I haven’t fully enjoyed your post yet, although I caught a glimpse of amazing food, plus the story of your grandfather’s homemade wine. We make mead and have, in the past, handed out Christmas bottles thereof. I like your grandfather’s method! I have a meeting I have to race off to, so I may get back in time to comment more. Thank you so much for sharing your memories with us!

    And thank you, Ana and helper elves, for this lovely celebration!

    Like

    • Michael says:

      Hi Sherilyn,

      Your homemade mead sounds fantastic. Actually, I’ve never had mead so it would be a first. Wait, maybe I have had mead but drank so much I don’t remember. Could that have happened? I need a beer so I can figure this out.

      Merry Christmas, Sherilyn. πŸ™‚

      Like

      • Sherilyn says:

        Lol, Michael! Yes, we’ve made some mead that we referred to as “sitting mead” because you risked falling if you stood up after a couple of glasses. You may have mead–it’s a wine made with honey rather than sugar.

        Merry Christmas to you, too! Hope you get out of the corner in time to celebrate!

        Like

        • Michael says:

          Sherilyn, I wasn’t exactly sure what mead was and asked Season just before she went to bed tonight and she told me just what you did – wine made with honey. I would have remembered that so am sure I’ve never had it.

          I love the name “sitting mead” and before you explained the meaning I thought it might have been a good girl drink because only good girls would be able to sit comfortably while drinking it.

          Like

  43. TL says:

    My step dad was Italian American and he always used to make these amazing cookies. I can’t remember what they were called, but it was something we always did as a family. Thanks for sharing your memories with us.

    Like

    • Michael says:

      You are welcome, TL, and thanks for taking the time to read the post and comment.
      I would love to know what cookies your step dad made.

      Merry Christmas, TL. πŸ™‚

      Like

  44. M. Palmer says:

    It was wonderful to read your family’s traditions, Michael! My brother’s family live in Boston and the Italian tradition is rich there too! We are pretty committed to a large hunk of meat for Christmas eve, but Christmas eve is always reserved for lasagna or baked ziti… yum! (Then you can eat cold pasta on Christmas day!)

    Like

    • Michael says:

      Hi M. Palmer,

      So glad you enjoyed reading about our family traditions. Yes, Boston does have a rich Italian tradition, and also the World Series champions Red Sox.

      Lasagna or baked ziti, you can’t go wrong with either. Now you are making me hungry. LOL

      Merry Christmas! πŸ™‚

      Like

  45. Kitty says:

    what wonderful x-mas traditions. it makes me want to incorperate a few of them into my own.
    well maybe not the calimairi the few times i’ve had that i didn’t like it. but like anything sometimes it’s in how it’s prepared.

    Like

    • Michael says:

      Hi Kitty, so happy you enjoyed the post. Would love it if you adopted some of these traditions in your own family Christmas.

      Calamari is not everyone’s cup of tea, and I agree that the way it’s prepared makes all the difference.

      Like

  46. Michael says:

    Ana’s Advent Day #19 is over and I would like to thank everybody for their wonderful words, gracious sentiments, sharing of information and caring support. Most of all I would like to thank Ana. This lovely lady put her faith in me and took the risk of turning her blog over to this crazy Italian Top who she is just getting to know. I hope I rewarded your trust, Ana, and was able to hold my end up. {insert cheeky comment here…on the blog I mean, no insertions up my end, please}

    I had a blast today, and the best part is I am getting to know all these wonderful people a little better. I hope everybody had a good time and took my jesting in he spirit intended.

    I raise my hand and salute all of you and especially Ana. You put a lot of hard work and invest a lot of time into your Advent Calendar event and you should be very proud of what you have created. It goes far beyond the Calendar itself, Ana, though that is a fantastic piece of work, but your true masterpiece is providing a safe and fun environment which attracts many good, talented and creative people. I am honored to now be among those people, and to call you friend. Thank you, Ana.

    Like

  47. Kathryn R. Blake says:

    I love Calamari, though I was reluctant to try it at first. I’ve never had it with marinara sauce since I usually eat it fried, like onion rings. I’ve never tried scungilli. Actually, I don’t think I’ve even seen it listed on a menu around here. When I grew up, our Christmas dinner was usually lamb of some sort. Unfortunately, hubby doesn’t like lamb and the thought of eating an innocent lamb at Christmas just seemed wrong to him. So, now we have Christmas Pizza instead with our “festive” meal on Christmas eve, instead. It’s also hubby’s birthday, so we usually splurge and take him out to a special place.

    Thanks for sharing your memories with us, Michael, and a hello to brave Season as well. From the way you write, I sometimes think you might be a hard task master, though I’m sure she loves you for it as well as for many other reasons.

    Wishing you a warm and merry Christmas.

    Like

    • Kathryn R. Blake says:

      Sorry for the hiccup. When I came back to the post, it showed my post still waiting to be sent, so I hit enter. My mouse has been playing games with me all day and I think it played a little trick on me now. Anyway, ignore the post since I already posted earlier. Thx.

      Like

  48. thelongbean says:

    I may be a bit later than some of your other comments, but time differences make it awkward, especially as it is 2 hours ahead of GMT here in Greece, just a little further east, but all part of Europe.
    I love fresh squid, gently fried in Olive Oil πŸ™‚ Another great dish is Octopus stifado, which if properly prepared is totally delicious.
    The traditional Christmas here is celebrated on 31 December, however the church celebrates a “Name Day” for Christos, Christina and Emmanuel. Name days are more important than birthdays…….

    Like

    • Michael says:

      No problem with the time difference, Long Bean. thanks for stopping by. I know some cultures celebrate Christmas around January 6 or 7 which is the Epiphany in the Roman Catholic Church, but never before heard Christmas being celebrated on December 31. Interesting.

      Octopus was never on our Christmas Eve menu but I have had it since and like it.

      Like

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