Fear not, this post has nothing to do with the mafia, the camorra or their counterparts. No, what I want to recount here are the wonderful Christmases of my childhood, centred around my Italian grandmother.
My grandmother came from a small mountain village, a ten minutes drive from the beautiful Lago Maggiore. She arrived in Switzerland at the age of sixteen, not speaking a word of French of course, and had to make a life for herself in her new adoptive country. She was a generous person and worked hard, helping her parents and taking care of her home and family. She had four daughters and over the years came nine grandchildren.
She simply loved Christmas and every year, the whole family would gather in her home for three days of festivities. Christmas Eve was the highlight of our time together. Some of us, including all the children, would attend the early mass and the others the midnight service. My grandmother always suspected that the mulled wine served after the midnight mass had more to do with the adults going than anything else, though! We met after the early service and during the aperitif the presents were opened. There was such excitement as we compared what had been given to us and the hugs and kisses as we thank each other lasted for quite a while. We would sit afterwards around two long tables, one for the adults and one that was always called “the little ones table”, even when the little ones were well into their twenties… My grandmother presided the adults’ table, keeping an eye on everything and making sure that her sons-in-law were receiving the adequate amount of wine!
On Christmas Day, we would assemble again at lunchtime to eat the traditional turkey with all the trimmings, followed by numerous sweet offerings. Then everybody would move to my parents’ house – next door – to enjoy an afternoon at the theatre. Yes, my sister, my brother, my cousin and I were very creative and every year we rehearsed three or four short plays that we presented on that day. I especially remember our production of “Snow White”… For some obscure reason it had been decided that my male cousin would play Snow White! As he left the “stage” in a hurry, he walked straight into the plate containing the bit of turkey that had been saved for our cat. The plate shattered, sending chunks of meat and strips of skin all over the kitchen. We are still laughing about it today!
Boxing Day was the day we were summoned to eat all the leftovers. It was of course quieter, the excitement of Christmas having died down to a gentle glow, and we exchanged impressions about the last two days while enjoying being together again.
I am determined to carry on with these traditions as much as possible. Last year we had my and Sexy Hubby’s family coming to us for these three days and I loved every minute of it. Sadly it is not possible to do the same this Christmas, but I fully intend to do it again next year. And guess what? I am sure my grandmother would be very proud of me…