Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Holiday Traditions: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

Hi all! This will be my last post before the Christmas holiday, so whether you celebrate or not, I wish all the merriest to you and yours!

Now - let's talk holiday traditions. You know, the things you do year in and year out that are so ingrained in your holiday ritual that you could practically set your clock by them and go through the motions in your sleep.

My family is Italian, and one of the Italian traditions is to cook seven fishes on Christmas Eve, in honor of the Seven Sacraments.

That's my Grandma, fryin' up the fish
For as long as I can remember, we've gathered at my Aunt Linda's house on Christmas Eve to eat pasta with clam and shrimp sauce, and all sorts of fish of the fried variety. Because let's face it, everything is better fried.

We eat, we laugh, we sing, we dance (no joke, we all sing in my family. A party with us is like a live episode of Glee. Without the angst.) And for as long as I can remember, Christmas Eve has been my favorite day of the year.

The bad part? We all leave REEKING of fish - clothes, hair, everything. Nasty.

Since I got married, my husband and I have adopted 2 Christmas traditions:
1) Cutting down our own Christmas tree at Maple Row Tree farm each year

And 2) Hosting Christmas Day dinner at our house. And a couple traditions within that tradition?

2a) My grandmother and I make the pasta sauce together the day before Christmas Eve, because no one can rock a pasta sauce like my grandma and I'm not about to try it alone.

2b) My husband creates a schedule on a spreadsheet of everything that needs to be done/cooked for the day. Everyone makes fun of us, but when your house is tiny and you're working with one stove and one refrigerator, you can't knock the thing that makes it all run smoothly.

If I do say so myself, we do a hell of a job. Appetizer, anyone?

Those crescents are stuffed with feta. And the spinach artichoke
dip is to die for.

Oh and let's just take a minute to appreciate my husband's table setting skills, because I sure do:

Lastly, I've been seeing a new trend pop up that I think is hilarious, and that probably gave me the jump start I needed when my Christmas spirit was lagging behind.

I'm talking, of course, about Ugly Sweater Parties. We've all seen them. We've all secretly balked at someone for wearing them. But now, people are celebrating the ugly. Embracing it. Having contests to see who can take tacky to the extreme. I give you, peeps, my interpretation of the Ugly Sweater:

That's me on the right. And yes, you can call it ugly outright.
So tell me - what are your favorite holiday traditions?


  1. FIRST COMMENT! *fist pump*

    Okay okay okay. PLANS. Next year I am rolling into your house for Christmas day (Every Italian house needs a resident Christmas Jew, right?) I will bring kosher sausage and your Grandma can make me some sauce, and then I will fall into a pasta coma in your guest room. Deal?

    So, we have Chanukah at our house, and I pretty much love everything to do with that. The candles and the fried foods being the obvious (yes, in our religion you actually MUST eat fried foods, to remember the miracle of the OIL. LOVE.)

    But my favorite favorite tradition is the Chanukah library. Every year my parents would unpack the holiday books, and we would go nuts because we loved them so much and we hadn't seen them for a whole year. Last night I hauled out all the Chanukah books and when my kids got home, my oldest literally screamed, "WHO FOUND THE 'DINOSAUR ON CHANUKAH' BOOK?!?!?!"

    It was THE. BEST.

    Merry Christmas, lady. <3

  2. My family's pretty easy-going--my mom brings out the new PJs on Christmas Eve and we all wear them most of the next day! Filling the stockings is also a big deal for us. Apart from that, we're fairly flexible because we're spread all over the globe and can't always be together.

    And I *totally* agree: everything is better when it's fried.

  3. Ooooh ... Seven Fishes Dinner! My husband and I did this once and had a lot of fun with it. I distinctly remember the party, because I was hugely pregnant at the time with my first child. Yikes, which makes it 15 Christmases ago.

    Sounds like it's time to try it again! Maybe next year.

    Which sums up traditions in the Salerni family -- they come, they go, we think -- "Hey, we liked that!" -- and we bring 'em back.

    The only tradition I can't get out of is writing a Christmas family skit and mailing it along with my Christmas cards. The one year I tried to bail on that one, I got phone calls and emails and Facebook messages complaining ...

  4. My mother is from Finland, so I grew up celebrating Finnish Christmas on Christmas Eve (because that's when Santa comes in Finland) and English Christmas on Christmas day. Even though I'm married with kids, we still celebrate the same way with the same foods I grew up with.

    I love my hubby for embracing my family tradition.

  5. We do Seven Fishes too! My aunt is a choir director, so she can't actually do it on Christmas Eve; we have it the Sunday before Christmas which has been christened "fake Christmas". We had about 35 people in her tiny house, all crammed into seats, and yelling to pass the fried cauliflower (delish!) But this year, she forgot to serve the mussels (which we sadly left alone in the freezer) so we only had 6 fishes...

  6. The feta-stuffed crescents look amazing! And yes, your hubby does have a gift for table-setting (unlike me, who always switches up where the forks/knives/spoons go).

  7. Lovely food and table setting. Delicious looking appetizers and all I can say about the sweaters is, well, they're memorable.

    The only family tradition I can think of going to my aunt's house. We've tried other places sometimes but turkey and gifts in the confines of her small place always feel like Christmas done right.

  8. Mmm... feta stuffed crescents. We don't have any particularly unusual traditions. Everyone in the family (adults included) get stockings, we normally celebrate with my in-laws (since my family is in the UK), and we eat lots and give gifts. It's a fun family time, with the added bonus this year of going to church on Christmas Day, which will help us remember the reason... :)

  9. No way! I so love the Ugly Sweater Party idea.

    What a beautiful spread. Holidays are all about food, family and friends. Since leaving my home state of Alaska, they've been pretty sad (and not white enough), but this year we spent the night with wonderful friends and it was all about cooking, eating, drinking and laughing.

    A very merry!

  10. LOL- I love your ugly sweater parties. And hosting an important dinner is so gratifying! Go you guys! And now I'm craving fried fish:) Hope you had a great holiday!

  11. Most of our traditions happen in the kitchen and those are my favourites. It isn't just the cooking, it's spending time with my Mum. We actually have a "Christmas Cake Making" CD and there's a track on it that we have to dance to, no matter what. Seriously. If we don't dance to that track, the mixture goes wrong. Yes, I'm speaking from experience. :)

    And then there's the sausage rolls and mince pies. I'm best at rough puff, so I'm in charge of the sausage rolls. My Mum is best at shortcrust, so she's in charge of the mince pies. But we're making them together and arguing over who gets the nice rolling pin and who's stuck with the rubbish old one.

    And we always have to have a go at something new and if it works well and we enjoy it, it tends to get added to our "must do" list. We used to buy all our Christmas chocolates but one year, we decied to try to make some of our own too and that's still going strong. Last year, it was cookie mixes in jars. The year before, it was gingerbread houses. This year - who knows? There's plenty of time for discovery though. :)