I come from a big, boisterous Italian family. Married into one, too. It should be no surprise that we have tons of traditions when it comes to the Christmas season. We shop together, bake together, make Christmas Eve and Christmas Day meals together… some of us even look for our trees together. We help each other decorate, keep each other company while writing cards, and wrap gifts together. We go to Mass with each other and do charity work together.
And now that I don’t live in Pennsylvania, I’m not usually around for any of it.
So it’s become important to me that I do what I can to either carry on these traditions in some manner or create new ones for my family.
We can’t shop for live trees in Pennsylvania any more. We also can’t bake with our family on Black Friday. So my family now puts up artificial trees (four of them, actually), and we decorate our whole house on the day after Thanksgiving. What used to be a day where four generations of women would gather and make Christmas cookies has become decorating day for my family. And that works for us… that means my house is festive longer and there are fewer days that I’ll be tempted with treats in my home.
A couple of weeks before Christmas I start mixing up dough and refrigerating it. And that weekend, we bake. My kids and I, and even my husband, form assembly lines, and start baking traditional Italian cookies and other family favorites. Over the course of two days, we’ll get as many as ten or twelve different types of cookies for our holiday trays.
The week before Christmas, I’ll have my cards sent and gifts wrapped, and we’ll all go shopping for the holiday meals. The kids aren’t crazy about the Feast of the Seven Fishes, but it’s tradition for both our families (and it’s my favorite meal of the year), so we keep working on them. We don’t have the options here that we had in Pittsburgh, but we make it work. On Christmas Eve, the kids help us cook, and they try (or pretend to try) all seven fish. After dinner, we open gifts, just like we always did in Pennsylvania. Then we’ll read “A Visit from St. Nicholas” and send the kids to bed.
The next morning, before anything else, we all gather around the manger and sing “Happy Birthday” to Baby Jesus. That’s a tradition that we had at home and will never give up. After that, we’ll open Santa gifts then go to church. Because we have nowhere to be, we can spend a lazy day at home. My husband will help me make dinner, and we’ll have a birthday cake for Jesus (that’s one of my husband’s family’s traditions).
Of course, if we do make it to Pennsylvania for the holidays, there won’t be any “lazy days” at home. The traditions will all still apply. We’ll just have to squeeze a bunch more of them in, and about four more houses. And we’ll love every busy, crazy moment of it!
Staci Troilo has been writing since she was a child. She earned her bachelor and master degrees in writing from Carnegie Mellon University, and after graduating, worked in corporate communications until she had her children. Later she worked as a writing professor and now is an editor as well as a novelist and short story writer. She creates dark, dangerous heroes and strong, capable heroines, weaving their lives together into a contemporary tapestry of tantalizing romance. Compelling villains and gripping mysteries engage the reader from page one of her novels and her short stories feature ordinary characters conquering the odds in extraordinary situations. Staci is from Western Pennsylvania but currently lives in Arkansas with her husband, son, daughter, and two dogs. You can reach her on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.