The following is a contribution to Casey Hays’ My Favorite Things: Christmas blog/contest giveaway this past December.
I wasn’t quite sure what to write about. What could I possibly NOT like about Christmas? I love the Christmas season. Admittedly, every year I begin listening to Christmas music a little earlier than the previous. I believe I started sometime in August this year. Only instrumental though. That’s how I justify it.
When Casey was generous enough to think of me to contribute an article, I kept changing my mind on my topic. However, my grandmother passed away a few weeks ago, and my younger brother and I stayed up late one night discussing our memories of “Granny and Grandpa’s house.”
On Christmas Eve, my family and I would attend 4 o’clock Mass. I enjoyed the music and Christmas spirit, but couldn’t wait to get to Granny’s house. The winding fifty-minute drive through rural Ohio/Pennsylvania made it all the more special. The nine of us packed into our van, and just at that point we were aching to get out, we would arrive in Ambridge, PA—turn left up the hill after the sign with the duck, then right on the second street to the white house on the right. Looking back on the house as an adult, it was incredibly small for how many people fit in there during the holidays.
We would walk on the pebbled sidewalk around the back, down the hill to the basement door. We were always the last family to arrive, and everyone would cheer when we stepped through the door. Grandpa had an obsession with tropical birds, and a bird chirp would sound off whenever the door opened. The basement had a huge concrete basin sink to the left. The floor was carpeted with the thinnest blue carpet that couldn’t have had carpet padding, and if I’m remembering correctly, the floor had a slope to it as if a drain were placed in the middle of the room. A bench fit under the stairway to the rest of the house above (my spot to open gifts), and Grandpa’s workshop sat along the other half of the stairs.
The room was taken up mostly by a long table set up for the feast. The plates were the fanciest I’d eat on all year. The blue design on the white china somehow made the food taste better. My grandfather was Italian, and hence our Christmas Eve feast was one of seven fishes and homemade ravioli. The Italian tradition is seven fishes (I think) but I’m not quite sure we hit that number. There was fried fish, shrimp, calamari (?; I think I was too little to realize if this was true or not), and smelts. I would be so hungry during that Mass and drive, but I swear it only took five bites of food to be full. But there was always room for the M & M’s, Hershey kisses, and homemade Christmas cookies—pizzelles, door knockers, and you know, any of those rock hard Italian cookies that beg to be eaten with coffee.
After dinner we’d open presents, and as a kid, that was my favorite part. As I grew older, I appreciated the dinner more and more. Both my grandparents are no longer with us. I’ll always miss the giant sink, the blue carpet, the fancy plates, the smell of the fish and ravioli, and the cheerful greeting mixed with the bird chirp. I am grateful my mother has carried on the Italian Christmas Eve tradition, for it is my favorite part of the Christmas season. I hope it brings its own set of warm memories for my children.