by Linda Scalzo Eads

The Calizo family wishes you a happy and joyful holiday season.

Let me share just a little about Christmas in Italy . . .and with my family. Preparations start early December. Streets are festive with colorful lights and decorations. Some cities host Christmas markets filled with food, decorations, and gifts. Music, singing, and more music.

On December 6, some people celebrate St. Nicholas Day or La Festa di San Niccola which is a religious celebration honoring Saint Nicholas. St. Nicholas and Santa Claus are historically the same man.
On December 24, Christmas Eve, many families in Southern Italy celebrate The Feast of the Seven Fishes (or Festa dei Sette Pesci). The meal features no specific menu, but most commonly includes baccala (salted cod), fried smelts, and spaghetti with lobster. Seven types of fish are served that night. It is not a feast, but a grand meal. On the 24th people abstain from meat until the feast of Christmas Day.
As a child, I recall starting three days before Christmas prepping the antipasto table that was at least 10 feet long, decorated with candles and garland. The aroma of Italian foods hovered the entire house. The table was replenished throughout the three days with cured meats, three or four special cheeses, olives, vegetables, dried and fresh fruits, hot roasted chestnuts, pasta, breads, biscotti, panettone, and candies. Family and friends always stopped by to visit–the food had to be ready! Even my high school friends came to the house to totally embrace the foods of a different culture‚Ķ the aroma of Italian foods is hard to resist. The freshly baked breads, and homemade pizza were the main attraction.

Of course, lots of time was devoted to preparing the many food courses my mom would serve on Christmas Day. I was right in the kitchen with her chopping, measuring, stirring, and tasting. We would always start the Christmas meal with wedding soup (I loved the little meatballs). The second course was pasta of some sort, then a green salad, followed by the turkey, Italian stuffing, and a variety of green and root vegetables. People sat around the table for hours talking and sharing stories. Sitting around after dinner swapping stories was a way to digest and relax before all the desserts came to the table.
Whatever way you celebrate your holiday, or if you prepare food with your family in the kitchen or even at the barbeque grill, always remember to be thankful and express your appreciation for sharing these wonderful times with people who mean something special to you.

Keep those individuals who are less fortunate in your thoughts and holiday wishes.