Ah, the joys of Holiday traditions….
It’s a magical scene: A perfectly shaped triangular Christmas tree is nestled in the corner of our cozy living room. Personalized Christmas cards for every little boy and girl signed by Santa Claus accompany each gift under the tree. Overstuffed red and green stockings line the fireplace. To me, this paints the perfect picture of Christmas. It wouldn’t be quite complete though, without the most important tradition of our never-ending feast, filled with all the holiday favorites!
The month-long celebration usually kicks off at Thanksgiving, but the real treat is on Christmas Eve when my grandmother brings out her old recipe book from the attic. I’m sure she knows how to make everything from memory after twenty-something years, but the perfectionist she is, each ingredient has to be measured to the teaspoon to be sure its just right.
Depending on your background, there may be a few traditional dishes that are always served on Christmas Eve. For my family, it’s the “Feast of the Seven Fishes” meal consisting of anchovies, lobster tails, stuffed shrimp, eel, baccala (salted cod fish), mussels, and clams which are all prepared with my great-grandmothers special seasoning. To compliment the main attraction, everyone takes part in bringing homemade side dishes such as pasta, meatballs, sausage and peppers, potatoes, vegetables, salad, and lots of fresh Italian bread and butter for dipping.
After filling our tummies, it’s time for the kids’ favorite part of the day – opening presents. First everyone has to open their Christmas cards. Once a peaceful scene, the living room soon erupts into chaos as the first present is opened. Ribbons, bows, and wrapping paper are strewn around the room in a happy mess of children and toys. While the kids are preoccupied with their new gadgets, the adults move on to the next order of business and start preparing dessert. Classics like fresh cannolis, Neapolitan ice cream, Rice pudding, and my grandmothers famous triple-Chocolate Cherry mousse cake are always big hits.
Once everyone has eaten to their hearts content, it’s time to make the long journey back home to snuggle in our beds and await the second round of festivities on Christmas day. In the words of Santa Clause from my favorite Christmas tale: “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”