The Latest from Lola's Diner

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Christmas Eve/Christmas Day Past what were your traditions when you were growing up?

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When I was a child our Christmas Eve tradition was always to go in the early evening to my Italian grandmother’s house. The women and the children would play bingo and gin rummy for pennies in the basement while the men would play poker upstairs. We would snack on Sfincioni and my grandmother’s homemade Italian Christmas cookies. Sfincioni is like a cold Italian pizza or a cross between pizza and Focaccia. There is really no other way to describe it. It is served cold or at room temperature. It’s perfect for Christmas Eve because it can be made a day or 2 in advance. It gives the hostess the opportunity to join in the fun or go sneak off upstairs to wrap a few gifts.

At midnight we would all go to Midnight Mass at Immaculate Conception Church at the corner of KK and Russell in Milwaukee. Some of the adults would stay back and cook for when we all got back from church. After church we were greeted with Italian sausage and peppers. I don’t recall us ever staying to eat, and I surely ate my fill of Sfincioni and Italian Christmas cookies. It was close to 2am when we would get back from church and Grandma's house was filled with the smell of Italian sausage and peppers.

Christmas Day we would open our gifts at home, then head to Grandma’s house around 1pm. Grandma and my Aunts would prepare a Ham, mashed potatoes (my mother made them, no one made them like she did), along with spaghetti, meatballs, Braciole, Italian sausage, Italian salad served along with Italian bread, olive salad and fennel. As the years passed the menu shortened. The first to go was Braciole, I’m sure because it was rather expensive to make. When Grandma cut out the spaghetti one year everyone was up in arms. Even though us kids thought it was peculiar to serve it along with Ham or Turkey, we did miss it when it wasn’t served.

All us kids sat at the kiddie table. We finished our meal as quickly as possible because there were gifts under Grandma’s tree for us. Gifts were opened. After gifts we had cake to celebrate the birthdays around Christmas. And of course, more Italian Christmas cookies.

Grandma even sent each and every family home with a shirt size box full of her Italian Christmas cookies. She must have baked for months to make all those cookies.

Those Italian Christmas cookies were the best.

There were Chocolate Balls with nuts and dried fruit bits inside frosted with chocolate icing, Sesame cookies, Spritz Cookies, tri-color biscotti with white icing and almond slivers, star cookies with dried cherry or jelly in the center, pecan fingers, knot shaped cookies with white icing decorated with nonpareils, tree shaped cookies and star shaped cookies with colored icing decorated with silvers balls, sprinkles, nonpareils or colored sugars.

Tomorrow's post will be "Christmas Eve/Christmas Day traditions now", so hold on to those until tomorrow.

7 comments:

ordinarymomss said...

Nice post. I love hearing other people's traditions!

chris said...

christmas eve we'd go to my dad's mom's house. there was never a set menu, but at the end of the evening grandma would give us all a new pair of pajamas. the next day we'd all wake up super early to open presents at home before going to mass and then off to my mom's parents where dinner would be your standard turkey and a ham.

these days i generally try to go to midnight mass with my cousin and then go where the flow takes me. this year it's to my parents in virginia.

Frugal Mommy said...

For Christmas Eve we would go to Midnight mass, as well. But during that day, we'd listen to the radio as they played Christmas songs. While that was going on in the background, we'd usually prepare a pineapple ham, mashed potatoes and whatever else we had around the house (canned soups, a Christmas log cake or pie that a friend would drop off, etc.). We'd eat our dinner and then head off to mass. Some years, we would open up our gifts right when we got home after church. If we were too tired, we would wait until the morning. As we grew older, the traditions started to fade. My parents separated and we didn't have any other family around--they all lived in different countries. I'm trying to build new traditions with my daughter and husband that hopefully will carry on throughout the years. Thank you for sharing your Christmas traditions.

Lola said...

Ordinary Momss,
Thank you. I enjoy reading everyones. It seems like nothing can beat my childhood traditions, we can't bring back family who have long passed away, but it's always fun to hear about other peoples traditions. Sometimes we can glean some new traditions for ourselves.

Chris,
New pajamas are a great tradition. I think I've given my kids new pajamas every year for the last 4 years, I was going to take a pass this year. Maybe I should rethink that.

Frugal Mommy,
A Christmas Log cake sounds wonderful. They look like so much work, so beautiful.
Thank you.

JD at I Do Things said...

I really enjoyed reading this! Boy, I wish I'd had an Italian grandmother to make cookies and cold pizza for me.

Our traditions: Christmas Eve night we always had 5-Star Soup: a tomato-based soup/stew with elbow macaroni, ham, Smoky-Links, carrots, celery, onions, and navy beans. My brother and I got to open one present on Christmas Eve. During the night, Santa Claus would come and leave "his" toys in addition to the toys that were already under the tree. I think my parents did this to avoid having to wrap all the gifts---presents from Santa were always unwrapped. Then it was just the four of us for dinner: usually ham, mashed potatoes, etc. But no spaghetti, unfortunately.

JD at I Do Things

Lola said...

Thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed my post.

Now as an adult I can really appreciate all the hard work my Grandmother and Aunt went through to make our holidays special. A few years ago, before my Aunt passed away I managed to get a copy of that prized cookie recipe. The recipe itself makes like a bazillion cookies. I had to get a calculator out to cut down the recipe to 'normal' size. I can't even imagine working with the amount of flour the original recipe called for. Since moving I've lost track of the recipe, but I've got my sister looking for it. I think my son would really get a kick out of using his Great-Grandmother's recipe.

Tamika said...

We really didn't have any set traditions when I was younger. I just went to bed early on Christmas Eve, so Santa could deliver my gifts and woke up early Christmas morning to open them. We didn't have anything special that we did.

 
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