A Italian Christmas Eve
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Tuesday 24 December 2013
By Ron Caimano
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Italian Christmas traditions were always persent at our house. It all started on Christmas Eve. Of course you never ate meat on Christmas Eve. For the most part it was fish, baccala and calamari were favorites. The Feast of the Seven Fishes, as this tradition is referred to, is an Italian-American Christmas Eve celebrration commerating the wait for the midnight birth of baby Jesus. Of course there were all the other things like home made cookies, candy, orange salad, one of my favorites, and a host of other things to tide you over. 

In the middle of the dining room table were the wine glasses, shot glasses and all the Italian cordials. Anisette was a favorite because it was good with your coffee.

The parade of people would start around six. Sometimes nuns and priests would stop by "Mary's House" for Christmas Eve. They would stay then leave in time for midnight Mass. Back in the Day midnight Mass really was at midnight! 

The neighbors would come in and out, grabbing something on their way through. We did the same thing at their house. It was so much fun. Mom saw to it that everything was perfect. She seemed to love the people, especially the nuns. I think they were her favorite.

The weather, which was often very cold that time of year in Rochester, New York really didn't matter. The celebration went on. I was responsible for gathering coats and boots as people came in and then getting them back to their rightful owner when time to leave. It kept me busy.

On Christmas Eve you were expected to be at home with family and friends. It was ok to invite a special friend over which I did on several occassions but home is where you stayed. People just seemed to enjoy one another on Christmas Eve. It brings about fond memories even to this day. It's fun to share them with people. 

Christmas Eve always was a lead in to midnight Mass. Of course I was an altar boy. It was a must in the neighborhood churches Back in the Day. In fact I was the Master of Ceremony, thank you very much, my cousin Louis and best friend Tom, Dusty as we called him back then, were on the altar with me. Midnight Mass was about 2 hours long and all in latin. You didn't have a clue what was being said but you paid close attention. Everybody in the church knew everyboby else so you could not get by with anything.  And don't try and slip out early. Mr Termitto or Mr Pecarraro would sure catch you.

It was back home after Mass for more food and wine. Since it was after midnight it was ok to eat meat. Mom would be cooking fresh Italian sausage from Costanza's down the street. We would have fried chicken and of course spaghetti and meatballs. All homemade. Antipasto was everywhere. I don't know how Mom did it but she did. The food was great. Everyone who came by stayed and ate. The house would soon be filled with smoke from those old time Italian stogie cigars. 

Everybody talked to everybody if they were across the room. They just talk louder and wave their hands faster. They seemed to make it happen. I guess you would look across he room for the person whose hand were waiving at the same pace as yours. Once you were in sync everything fell into place! If you were not used to all that it would scare you to death when they got going. I remember having a friend over and the talking got loud. I looked around and she was sitting in the corner, eyes wide a saucers wondering what was going on.

Then we would go visit a neighbor and eat some more. The word diet was not even a word Back in the Day. You just enjoyed and had fun!

Mom would always wait for Father Cloonan and Sister to get there before we were allowed to open one, and only one, present. By this time it was 3 or 4 in the morning. Who cared? It was a big deal to open one present because my Sister and I would study the packages deciding which would be the one.

After that it was time to go to bed so Santa could come. We did but were up again in a few hours to continue with the celebration of Christmas. 

For those who can, try and carry on the traditions of your childhood. They mean so much to the children to learn how we grew up.
Have a very Merry Christmas..........Salute!
Leave a comment:
Pat Nichols - Ron/Mr. C.,

I really enjoyed reading this! For a moment, I wished I had grown up Italian instead of Irish;). Great picture, too.

I remember when you and Linda had me over for Christmas Eve dinner. I couldn't tell you what the main course was but I've never forgotten the orange salad! Care to share the recipe?

Merry Christmas to you and the family!


Kathy - Really enjoyed reading this and imagining what a great family Christmas tradition you had. Cheers.