It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
Only a tiny handful of days left on the advent calendar, friends! Yes sir, Christmas is almost here!!!
Some people are partial to summer, others to fall and spring. My favorite season?! Christmas season, of course! For me (and most department stores and retail establishments) this season begins roughly a week after Halloween, when I start makin’ my list and checkin’ it twice. Christmas music starts a little before Thanksgiving, just so that my playlists can be perfect by the time Black Friday rolls around. Then I try to do something full o’ Christmas cheer every day until the BIG DAY itself. Yep, there’s nothing I love more than Christmastime.
This Christmas season has been a whirlwind one! We got a dog (a big black lab we’re fostering for a rescue organization… his name is Paddy, short for Padfoot… you know, like Sirius Black? Yes, I named him). I picked out, purchased, and managed to schlep home my first real adult Christmas tree. I folded more paper crane ornaments than I can count to decorate said tree. I spent $200 at William Sonoma on Christmas cookie supplies so that I could bake sugar cookies with my brothers. We had visits from both mine and le boyfriend’s parents. I bought lots of gifts for people I love. It snowed!
As much as I adore Christmas, I wouldn’t call December 25th my favorite day of the whole year. Nope, that distinction is reserved for the day before, Christmas Eve – the night all the Christmas magic happens.
I grew up in an exceptionally Italian family and Christmas Eve was always the big event. I have few happier memories than those spent gathered around the table at my Nonna and Nonno’s house and eating course after course after course of traditional Italian fare. Well, maybe not all of it was traditional, but it was certainly traditional to us – I looked forward all year to my Nonna’s stuffed shells and my uncle’s pasta primavera.
After at least 6 whole hours of eating and game playing, we would open gifts at midnight while eating dessert (yep, we still had room). The highlight was always these giant trash bags my Nonna passed off as stockings that would be full to the brim with every sort of knick knack you could never want. We’d all laugh and compare our finds, trade with each other, and gawk at the “real” gifts. It was the way Christmas should be; bellies full, family abundant, gifts galore, a feeling of excitement and anticipation as your head hits the pillow – just perfect.
These days our Christmas Eve’s are only a shadow of what they were in their prime. My Nonna sold her house when my Nonno died and now we all cram into her 1 bedroom apartment. She no longer has the energy to put together our trash bag stockings. Many of my family members can’t make it each year. We’ve scaled down the menu to a few appetizers, one pasta dish, and one dessert.
I miss the days when the holiday was big, but the important things are still there: amazing family, fun games, copious gifts, a Christmas Story playing on repeat. There is still nothing better, that’s for sure.
I still hold out hope that sometime, someone will revive our traditional Christmas Eve, but in the meantime, I’ve rounded up some of my family’s favorite recipes that fill my heart (and tummy) with holiday cheer. Hope they fill you up too!