Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Italian Traditions

Italian Traditions
Traditions are very unique to each family and individual, especially at Christmas. One of my favorite traditions we have in our family is a trip to DeVitis Italian Store. From as far back as I can remember, all the female aunts and cousins would get together on a morning before Christmas and my Nonna Antonucci would take us to DeVitis. The store is always crowded with many loud, Italians who are standing around talking with their hands. Most of the people in there knew each other, or at the very least, knew someone's uncle. There would always be that time we'd be standing around, constantly moving our cart to let people through, while Nonna talked to someone she's known forever. After the chatting, we'd make our way to the meat counter, where you would take a number. Of course, that number always seemed so far away from the current number they were shouting. 

Once we got to the counter, Nonna always ordered the same thing. Pounds and pounds of Prosciutto, Hard Salami, Provolone Cheese, Antipasto Salad, Olive Salad (with extra juice), Bocconcino Salad (fresh mozzarella balls and tomatoes), and always for me, my favorite, the Cheese Salad. Once we ordered from the counter, we made our way to the bread aisle, where yes, we had to stand there till they brought out the freshest bread and it could not have seeds. As the man is trying to stock the shelves, we are grabbing loaf after loaf from his hands. With our cart full, we would make our way to the checkout. The checkout is very small, always with brown paper bags and Nonna would always grab some sweet goodie on the way out. 

Once we had all the goodies, we'd go to someone's house and eat. It was usually my Aunt Cristine’s house and everyone just seemed to all show up at the same time, as if they could smell DeVitis wherever they were and knew we were back. Once we were all there, we'd unpack the fresh Prosciutto which is always wrapped in a white butcher’s paper. The bread would be cut, the salads put out on the counter and conversation in full bloom about who they saw, what they were doing now, how they grew up to look like so and so. For hours we'd sit around, eat and talk.

My other favorite tradition is the annual New Year’s Day Wedding Soup. Again, very similar to the DeVitis trip, we would all gather at my Aunt Cristine's to make soup. Over the years, so many people have been involved in the soup making. I can remember many different friends from school coming over and helping out with cooking. Our particular Antonucci wedding soup is completely homemade. Of course, first, we eat the leftover DeVitis and then we start working. We roll every single little meatball with our hands, all 8-10 lbs of meat. The meat balls cannot be any bigger than pencil eraser, and yes, my mother or aunts do come around and check. If they are too big, they will throw them back in your bowl to do again. We all have our plate, sit in a big circle talking as we roll meatballs. After the meatballs are finished about 4 to 5 hours later, depending on how many people are involved, we move on to croutons. Every crouton is individually rolled out on a cookie sheet, baked, and then sliced. After a few hours of slicing, your fingers feel like they cannot move from cutting so much. On a different day, the eggs and gizzards chopped and broth made.  
On New Year’s Day we all gather together and start the New Year off with a big bowl of Wedding Soup, made with love. 

These have been our two traditions for as long as I can remember. My Nonna who started each tradition is no longer alive physically, but her memory lives on each year as we continue honoring her through our trip to DeVitis and each meatball we roll. I cherish those two events. I look forward to the hustle and bustle of DeVitis at Christmas. I can sit here now and taste the familiar smells and feel the love from my Grandma. Traditions should be cherished, they make your particular family unique. What are some of your favorite traditions?

Monday, December 9, 2013

Stop and start enjoying

Stop and Start Enjoying
The holidays seem to be so stressful.  Everyone is rushing around to make sure they get certain gifts, get their house decorated a certain way, send Christmas cards, attend parties, bake cookies and the list could go on. All that hustle and bustle is great if you are really enjoying all the activities, however, I think for most people, they dread more of it than they enjoy. 

What if we all did what we wanted to do over this holiday season? Let's make a list of the activities that bring us joy and take those that we find non enjoyable off the list. Maybe we could make a commitment to ourselves and our well-being, instead of to people and things we really don't care that much about. We all have activities like, cookie exchanges, different holiday parties, Secret Santa exchanges, dinners, etc, that we sometimes do not want to do, but feel guilty if we don't do them. We need to release the guilt and find the joy. If going to that party feels like more of a hassle, then don't go. Replace the party with a different activity that brings your soul love. 

Leave your holiday season open to spontaneous adventures with your kids, relatives, significant others and yourself. Allow that time for ice skating, driving around to look at lights, sitting by a warm fire all snuggled watching a Christmas movie, an exciting lunch with an old friend and all the various other fun events this holiday season. If we have our days and weekends so packed with things we don't even want to do because we feel obligated, then it zaps all the fun out of the holidays. 

Maybe some of the non-enjoyable things on your list is having to cook something to take to a party. Instead of cooking, it's perfectly okay to run to the store and buy something to share. Some people dread having everyone over to their house, because we feel like the house needs to be perfectly clean, every dish matching, and food done all at once. Drop your ego. It does not matter if you have Christmas dishes and if they are all a matching set or if every corner is dusted. No one will notice. If they do, then that's their issue. Find enjoyment in having everyone over to your house. Stop stressing over things that are really not important. People come over to eat, drink and be merry. They don't care what they eat on, when it comes out of the oven or how its presented. They only notice when you make a fuss over it. So, stop, and start enjoying. 

Do all the things you enjoy this holiday season, but if you have to do something that you normally dread, find something positive out of the experience. Go into it with love in your heart. Look at a person that maybe is the reason you dread going, and ask yourself how you can you bring love into their life. Stay in the moment. Try not to think about the event at all prior to going, just show up in love and find the positive. If you have to bake cookies, then invite someone over to help, get kids involved or put on your favorite music and just enjoy the baking. I think if we eliminate some of the stuff we don't have to do, replace it with what brings our soul joy, and then we'd find it’s easier to enjoy the obligations that are non-negotiable. 

This holiday season, let it be peaceful and enjoyable. Do things that make you happy. Release the guilt of not doing things you don't want to do. Show up to every event you chose with love. Keep in mind the real meaning of the holidays. I hope that this year is the best holiday season yet, because you chose what is important for you.