Happy New Year

It's about 2 hours to midnight (not two minutes, mind you) so I'll wish you a Happy New Year now. Hope 2007 is a great year for everyone! Since I've taken a week off from blogging, I'll be spending the week catching up. So I should get to everyone by Friday! So much has gone on in the last week I need to blog about! I'll have to put some notes somewhere. Anyway, I thought it best to go chronologically, so I'll start with Christmas Eve.

Christmas Eve is always spent with my family. It's a much bigger deal in our Italian tradition than Christmas Day. It's worked well for us over the years as we then always spend Christmas Day with the Wife's family. No trying to figure out whose turn it is. Also, it allows us to get all the craziness out of the way early and actually enjoy a quiet Christmas Day.

For those of you not of Italian heritage (or if your from a part of Italy that doesn't have this tradition), Christmas Eve is a fish day. Kind of like Fridays during Lent or Good Friday. I'm not sure why that is. It's just one of those things. The meal is pretty standard. We start out with TONS of shrimp cocktail (shrimps, for those of you that don't have off the boat parents). My mom usually gets 3 to 4 pounds of shrimps, the BIG ones. The Wife and I like the spicy cocktail sauce with plenty of horseradish in it.

The next course is linguine or spaghetti with red clam sauce. You get a full dish of pasta. Now, I'm not talking cereal bowl size dishes here. We're talking the real deal pasta dishes that are like 12 inches in diameter and two inches deep. Full of pasta. Unless you say you only want a little. Then you get a 3/4 size helping. Served with bread, of course.

Are you full yet? Don't matter, we're just getting started. Next comes the main course. Fried shrimps, bakala (baked salt cod), fried calamari, seafood salad, perhaps octopus, sometimes some fried red snapper, fries (cause the kids like fries), and salad. You always have to have salad. There may even be another vegetable, usually broccoli. And you need fresh lemon to squeeze on to your fish. You first peel the fried shrimps, then wash your hands (try peeling fried shrimps sometime and you'll understand), then you squeeze lemon on the shrimps and whatever other fish you have on your plate.

Once everyone is satisfied, you clear the table and bring out the fruit and have coffee. Usually nuts are served at this time as well. After sitting for another maybe 15 minutes or so, the desserts come out. Pie, cheesecake, jello, brownies, you name it. The final cherry to put on top of this meal is roasted chestnuts (chestenuts, as my parents would say).

Now, it isn't the copious amounts of food that make the Wife crazy every time we spend holidays at my parents. It's the volume. Whenever the whole family gets together, we have maybe 15 adults there. Don't sound like too many, does it? Well, have you ever HEARD 15 Italians talking? They're all speaking at the same time, at a sufficient volume to be heard at the end of the street. All carrying on about 3 conversations each simultaneously.

Additionally, it's Christmas Eve. Meaning, 5 grandchildren ranging from 4 to 10 would like to open presents. You recall the meal described above? Well, as you could imagine, it takes a while to get through such a meal. Around 2 to 3 hours. Which makes sense for a meal that size. However, the kids are done pretty much after the pasta. And spend the rest of the time running around the house creating havoc and asking about every 10 minutes, "Is it time to open presents yet?" The highlight of this year was when one of my nephews tried to jump a gift bag that contained wine and knocked it down the stairs. Lost only one bottle!

But family gatherings at my parent's place are by definition loud and hectic. I, of course, actually look forward to it. You grow up with it, it's comforting. The Wife hates it, as her family was just the opposite and enjoyed "quiet" meals on the holidays. But we survived, got the boys to bed at a semi-reasonable hour, and managed to get to church on time on Christmas. Plus the boys got stuff they liked, including a Game Cube. The Wife and I got a bread maker from my parents which we finally tried out today. Made pretty good bread! I'll have to keep working with it.

Next post will skip Christmas Day per se and talk about something that hit me while in Church that morning.


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