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  • Writer's pictureSamantha

Monday Musings: When I think of Christmas...

Andy Williams gets it right when he sings, "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year." I've always loved Christmastime -- some of my fondest childhood memories are when honoring Christmas traditions and celebrations with family.

In one of my earlier posts, I shared how I lived in the same city as my extended family until I was nine years old. After my family's move across the country, we didn't spend many Christmases together. But in my younger years, when we still lived close by, we were part of the big, celebratory holiday gatherings. They included grandparents, aunt, uncles, and cousins. We'd also enjoy get-togethers with great aunts and uncles as well as my first and second cousins. I think you get the picture -- several celebrations with all "sides" of the family.

My immediate family would spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day hopping from one house to the next in the cold December weather, usually with snow on the ground. I didn't know it at the time, but it was a wonderful way to spend Christmas. Each stop we were greeted with hugs, kisses, gifts and delicious food. It was always fun to make the "rounds."

The traditions that I hold closest to my heart are the ones on Christmas Eve. It's a day full of anticipation and wonder and for my family it was, and still is, a day to celebrate our faith, family and heritage. As Italian-American Catholics, we abstain from eating meat on this day (similar to Fridays during Lent) in anticipation of the birth of Jesus. We celebrate the Feast of the Seven Fishes, which is exactly as it sounds -- an elaborate meal where we prepare and eat several types of fish and seafood. Our spread also includes homemade pasta and some traditional American holiday side dishes. My favorite is pasta e olio (angel hair pasta, garlic, Italian seasonings, spinach and shrimp).

After two meals with my mom and dad's families respectively, and opening gifts from grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, we'd attend Midnight Mass with my mom's side of the family. We'd sit together, sometimes a cousin might be an alter server, in two pews (we were a large crew). The sanctuary's lights would be low, candles burning bright and we'd sing some of my favorite Christmas carols -- Silent Night, Hark the Herald Angels Sing and Joy to the World.

The children would get sleepy because it was after midnight of course. I'd force my eyes to stay open, but sometimes I couldn't hold off the slumber. Many of us would fall asleep in our parents' arms. When the adults would wake us up for Communion and the Final Blessing, I'd yawn and remember that Santa was coming! Another thrill!

We'd say our goodbyes outside of the church. We children found our second wind at this point -- so much anticipation for what was about to come! Our weary parents, who had been celebrating all day with several stops along the way, knew their long night had just begun and an early morning was on the horizon.

As an adult and parent, I recall these childhood memories each Christmas. I cherish them in ways I never have before, but I suppose that's what happens as you get older... memories become nostalgic and traditions have more meaning.

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