My favorite thing about the holidays is the various traditions that people celebrate. Coming from an Italian-American family, one of the things I fondly remember about the holidays is my mother baking Italian cookies, like the almond cookies sprinkled with powdered sugar, similar to Mexican wedding cookies. There were also the tasty sugar cookies my Aunt Sue, who lived up the street, baked. As a little girl watching my aunt make the sugar cookies, I could hardly wait to try one after they came out of the oven. In addition, my mother ordered honey soaked “bow-tie” cookies from an older Italian woman who had been making them for many years. As children, we were only allowed to have what my mother put out. She knew that if she didn’t hide some, they would all be gone in an instant.
About ten years ago, I started my own tradition of making Christmas cookies. I make them for those clients who I represented as well as people who referred me business in the past year. To keep my husband happy, I also make enough for our holiday dinners. I make three kinds of cookies – sugar, ginger and biscotti. This year I continued the tradition and the best part about it is handing them out to my clients with the colorful cookies and chocolates wrapped in a cellophane bag tied with green and red ribbons.
Italian Christmas Eve Meal of the Seven Fishes
Other traditions I recall growing up with include the Italian Christmas Eve meal of varied fishes. Ours started with shrimp cocktail with an entrée of breaded smelts, salad and pizza fritta. I wasn’t a fan of the breaded smelts but I loved the shrimp cocktail and pizza fritta! We had this meal at my aunt’s home which was beautifully decorated for the holidays with a fragrant spruce tree filled with old-fashioned Christmas ornaments. My cousin, Laurie, made a chocolate meringue pie with homemade cream on top for dessert. Sometimes my husband repeats this Italian tradition by preparing a meal with 7 fishes. I have made the main course of slow roasted salmon with fennel, citrus, and chiles. He makes the other six fishes which include clam chowder, crab, scallops, mussels, oysters, and shrimp as appetizers. And, of course, we have the Christmas cookies for dessert!
Neighborhood Christmas Light Tour
The last tradition I’ll mention is something I started. Our neighbors love to decorate their homes with Christmas lights. A few years ago, I organized a group of friends to walk around after dusk to see the lights and enjoy the holiday spirit. We even stopped at one home and sang Christmas carols to the surprise of the owners who came out and listened, smiling at our attempt to harmonize. The evening was cold and it felt like the holidays I enjoyed back east without the snow, of course.
Having holiday traditions makes this time of year special. What are your holiday traditions?