With Christmas just around the corner, I thought it would be fun to explore the traditions observed in Italy and in America. With so many expats in both countries, it would be interesting to see how they’ve managed to continue celebrating with their customs and how they’ve incorporated those of their new homes.
Both my grandparents grew up in large Italian American families and they carried on the traditions that they knew. Family was number one and gathering for holidays was never a question, but an expectation. The picture above was taken at Christmastime (note the Panettone) and probably soon after my grandparents were married. It is a perfect example of how our gatherings were revered. We dressed up for the occasion.
My grandmother remembers her father making sausage and having it ready to be served after they attended midnight mass on Christmas Eve. My grandfather carried on that tradition making sausage from scratch and also serving it after midnight mass. As the family grew, my great-aunt hosted Christmas Eve dinner and either served “Sauce” or Lasagna. For dessert, we enjoyed traditional homemade Italian cookies. After that, Christmas became very American with my grandmother staying up all night wrapping presents and for Christmas dinner, serving ham topped with crushed pineapple that was dyed red and green and a layered jello salad. I have no memory of a television ever being on and of course, there were no cell phones or electronics. If we weren’t cooking then a game of cards would begin. There was constant food and commotion.
After learning of the sausage meal, I suggested to the girls that we should make that for Christmas Eve dinner this year. My idea was met with much resistance. They firmly stated that we couldn’t change from our dinner of spaghetti and sauce. It’s our family tradition!