As we begin to wind down our year, our thoughts turn to faith, family and friends, to holiday decorations and presents, and to all of the holiday traditions we so fondly remember as children.
Growing up in a typical Italian -American home in upstate New York, my memories are filled with huge Christmas Eve gatherings at my Great Grandmother’s home. The smells of traditional “Christmas fish” dishes filled the air, from shrimp and scallops to lobster, scrod, squid, and calamari. And of course, pasta side dishes – at least three were always featured, including Lasagna! Desserts were too numerous to count! We had as many as 75 assorted relatives and family friends that would make their way to the house, some who lingered for many hours, others who just “dropped by” to bid us warm wishes (and to taste my Grandma’s special dishes, of course). It got so overwhelming that we needed to arrange to get folding chairs from our local church to set up temporary seating throughout the house. People came, and people went, and all departed with a smile and a full stomach.
By about 11:30 pm, it would be time to start getting our coats on for the short walk over to church for the Midnight Mass. Often it would be snowing, and all was quiet. Even as children, the experience of it all was very special – solemn, but in a way that seemed relaxing and comforting …. as it somehow should be. The Mass was at that time still done in Latin, and although I confess that some of the words escaped me, the feelings that it brought up in me were immense and powerful. And the full Christmas choir was always in “best form” on that night.
After the service, we returned to the house and the grown-ups would begin telling stories of Christmases long past, of their memories of this special time. After a while, we got sleepy, and it was finally time to call it a night and get home to our beds. After all, everyone knew that Santa never came to your house if you were still awake!
On Christmas day, it was always an early awakening, usually by about 7:00 am, to the “delight” of my parents! After presents from Santa were discovered and gifts under the tree were exchanged, it was time to shower and dress for another big day and a return to Grandma’s. We were always allowed to bring one toy or gift with us, and most years it was very hard deciding which “object of desire” to select. Once gathered again, we would celebrate with a much smaller crowd, just the 25 or so immediate family members that made up our “clan”. Turkey, Ham, and of course a pasta dish or two would be on the menu, and by about 8:00 pm, everyone would be ready to return home and decompress from all the excitement and food.
Throughout my life, although the holiday crowds have gotten much smaller, I’ve held on to the traditions, and have instilled them in my children as well. It’s something we all appreciate and share together, and on the few occasions we find ourselves separated by the miles, we know that we’re all sharing these same experiences. I find great comfort in that.
So now, as we prepare to enjoy our unique Holiday experiences, I’d like to wish you and your family the “Merriest of Christmases”, the Happiest of Hanukkahs”, and the “Kindest of Kwanza’s”!
We appreciate your friendship and your business, and look forward to building many new memories together in the coming New Year.
If you have any Holiday memories you’d like to share, we’d love to hear from you – Peace, Health, and Joy to you and yours from all of us at Quast Media!