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Patty’s Ponderings: Christmas Traditions In Our Italian Family

Table set for Christmas dinner

Christmas time is a season of traditions. Many families have very specific ways that they honor these, and my family is one of those. Our traditions have as much to do with preparing for the holiday as the actual celebrating of said days:

  • You must stock up on baking ingredients and then bake cookies until you drop.
  • Christmas Eve in Italian families is “The Night of Seven Fishes”- -yup, 7 servings of seafood in one night, which would also include a pasta dish with fish and a traditional warm salad which my dad always called ‘escarole’ and Ben likes to refer to as ‘toilet lettuce’! (I’ll explain later).
  • Midnight mass was a requirement for as long as I can remember, although over the last few years due to late dinner preparation, (hey those 7 fishes don’t cook themselves!) and fatigue, (my family just hates it when I snore in church), we have not attended.
  • Christmas morning means sleeping in until my nephew can’t take it anymore and then noshing on a breakfast of my dad’s traditional warm eggnog with espresso & marsala wine and homemade anise bread (another wonderful Italian concoction).
  • Then presents are opened, people nap, dinner preparation starts and holiday music fills the air. Holiday videos are watched and the day slips away into the purple twilight of another precious day with my family.

In case you’re still wondering about the escarole salad, one year my dad went overboard and purchased ten heads of curly endive lettuce which must be soaked and completely cleansed of dirt, (it settles in the nooks and crannies of the leaves), to make it edible. That was my job and the only place big enough was the bathtub. I thoroughly cleaned the entire tub and surrounding area to make this work and this salad is cooked after all. But to Ben it will forever be ‘toilet lettuce’!

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