I am an Italian American. Not the Jersey Shore, obnoxious guido kind. But a real Italian American. Once who knows exactly where her grandparents are from in Italy, who can speak the language, and whose family still celebrates all of the Italian traditions my grandparents and their grandparents grew up with.
I am proud of my heritage and proud of my family.
One of our biggest traditions is Christmas Eve. A lot of people have a low-key Christmas Eve. Maybe they watch a movie and have a quiet dinner with their immediate family. That's great, but that's not how my family does things.
In Italian culture, Christmas Eve - La Vigilia di Natale - is a bigger deal, more important, than Christmas day. We don't eat any meat on Christmas Eve, because it's a day of penitence, so instead we have a feast of seven different types of fish. Shrimp, scallops, cod, smelt (my grandfather's choice!), tuna, calamari, and tilapia. The first four are fried, the tuna is made into a sauce for fettuccini, the calamari is stuffed with bread crumbs and cheese and cooked in a red wine sauce, and tilapia is baked with butter, lemon, white wine and garlic. We also have homemade polenta and eggplant parmesan (more on that later!). We're up by 8am and frying fish by 9. Everyone helps. Take a look:
Grandpa just oversees everything. And yes, that is my dad's homemade wine in the background.
When everything is cooked, we all shower and get ready for mass at 4. Traditionally you'd go to midnight mass, but when my cousins and I were all little, it was much easier for our parents to go to the earlier mass and it just kind of stuck. Then back to my parents' house to eat and drink and drink and eat. Everyone is dressed to the nines and family photos are taken in front of the Christmas tree. After dinner we change into our Christmas jammies and play games.
And yes, even though I am 23 years old, my dad still reads me The Polar Express before I go to bed.
Then it's up in the morning for presents, and over to my Aunt Tara and Uncle Cataldo's house for the feast round 2. YUM!
Buon Natale, everyone. :)