Christmas Eve has been my favourite day of the year since I was a kid. Every year I’d look forward to Dec 24th with more and more excitement the older I got. The thrill of Christmas Eve never ever faded for me and here are 3 reasons why:
As far back as I can remember, my Dad’s side of the family always got together on Christmas Eve. When I was very little and right up until I was in my early 20s, we used to all go to my paternal grandparents’ house for Christmas Eve dinner and gift opening. There’d be about fifteen of us gathered around the dinner table, TV and Christmas tree and, being my Dad’s side of the family (who are all hilarious), there was always a lot of laughter and tears (from laughing so hard). One year, we actually broke the sofa in my grandparents’ living room. The sofa! Ahh good times.
Sadly, now that my grandparents are both gone, we rotate hosting duties and have our Christmas Eve celebrations at different houses every year. Last year it was my parents’ turn to host. It’s a lot of work but we all really enjoy it and wouldn’t pass it up for anything (except maybe a pesky pandemic). And every year we always snap a family group photo. It seems as if every year there are more people added to the picture; as my cousins and I have gotten older, partners, spouses, babies and pets have been added to the mix and it’s lovely having a visual reminder of how much our family has grown over the years.
Oh my God guys the food! Okay so we’re Italian and you know that every time a bunch of Italians get together, there’s gonna be a lot of food. Our Christmas Eve feast of pasta, fish, vegetables and desserts has been the exact same since I was a child. If even one thing changes or if something is omitted, I can pretty much guarantee you that someone will make a comment and go where’s the so-and-so?? Italians don’t fool around when it comes to the dinner menu, especially at Christmas Eve.
Traditionally, Italian Catholics abstain from eating meat on Christmas Eve so that’s where the fish comes in. We cook every type of fish you can think of and mix it in with pasta and fresh veggies. Lots of bread, lots of espresso and plenty of tasty desserts too. Our dessert table is always large enough to feed an army and there are always leftovers. I remember one year I took pictures of our feast and sent them to one of my Canadian friends to show them just how intense our menu was and they could not believe the amount of food we had prepared. Guys, the rumors are all true. Italians go crazy at Christmas!
My Dad’s side of the family always gives the best presents. My Dad’s youngest sister, Grace, is the one who got me into classic film and she’s also the one who kick-started my obsession and love for film books. When I was around 11 or 12, she bought me my very first film book – Fred Astaire’s autobiography Steps In Time (1st Edition) and every year since then, without fail, she’s gotten me something to do with classic movies. Last year, she gifted me a beautiful book about Audrey Hepburn.
My aunts and uncles and cousins have a knack for choosing the greatest gifts. Whether they’re practical, highly sought after, wacky or just plain ridiculous, the gifts that are exchanged between us on Christmas Eve have always been winners. Especially the set of tools that my aunt Grace got my uncle Joe the first year they were married (Joe is NOT a handyman and he was like why the f**k did you buy me tools is this a joke??). Guys, crying with laughter is an understatement. Or the time my uncle Joe bought my uncle Ernie a pair of pants that were so big they buttoned up over his head. Joe said he had bought them at the Big n’ Tall store (and Ernie is on the shorter side).
Only 3 days until Christmas Eve! Though we won’t be gathering as a family this year, we’ll probably still call each other and Zoom and share laughter, tears and very tangible love through our wi-fi networks and phone lines. We’ll eat the same food, watch the same film (A Christmas Carol (1951) and open each other’s gifts separately in our own homes but we’ll still be together in our hearts. And that’s really all that matters. Merry Christmas everyone xo