~A Calabrese American Christmas with my extended Calabrian Italian family in West Virginia~
For the last 29 years,my husband and our 2 kids drive 12 hours each way to join my parents, aunts, uncles, cousins of all ages, to eat the seven fishes dinner on Christmas Eve. Of course, there will always be spaghetti, vegetables, salad. This year there were 40 of us. Then, we sing Christmas carols before we disperse to our cars to our individuals childhood homes to open presents and then attend Midnight Mass with full stomachs, heavy eyelids, and even fuller hearts.
Family is all important to Italians.
For the large Christmas Eve lunch (il pranzo), Aunt Angie makes clam chowder, we have shrimp, baccala, smelt, sardines and whiting. Aunt Mary Jane, Aunt Angie, and my mom, Josephine, and two of their brothers work hard for hours preparing. Cousins arrive and pitch in.
Desserts include: pannetone, pita m’pigliata (we say pita piata) which is a traditional dolce from San Giovanni in Fiore, my paternal grandparents’ home (and where I am a new citizen).
My daughter covered our feast on her food blog here, as well.
My four grandparents immigrated to the US when they were all teenagers, then they met here in the US and married. They each had eight children—two of which are my parents.I have 34 first cousins.We may have Americanized some of the traditions, but they pretty much continued with the customs of the homeland when they arrived in America.Relatives who stayed behind in Italy would often send food items from the homeland.
There are usually over 40 relatives celebrating together:
Uncle Frank wears my grandmother’s flowered half apron while frying the fish in the attached garage-turned-family room, the second kitchen.
Cherrye over at MyBellaVita blog in Calabria, Italy shares with us her personal experience of a Calabrian Christmas tradition – and there are so many things to love about Calabria.
Cosimo was my maternal grandfather, born in Caulonia Italy, Calabria. He was 17 when he voyaged alone on the ship to Ellis Island, never to return to Italy until he was 84 years old, (67 years later).
Around four million southern Italians immigrated to the US between 1900-1920 during a time when they were starving.It is a sad mark on Italy, losing so many families.They worked hard in America, many bought land, homes, education, and most of all raised their families.
I hope, wherever you are, you experience the peace and love of the season with friends and family.
I cherish my Calabrese American Christmas. What traditions do you enjoy?
You are welcome to reprint, copy, or distribute Lenora Boyle’s article, provided author credit is included.