I had the opportunity to attend my first big Italian Christmas with my big Italian boyfriend and his even bigger Italian family last month. I thought I knew what I was getting into having spent time with his family before, but what I didn’t know was that given the holiday spirit, I should have known to multiply that by ten, wait I mean twenty… who am I kidding – one thousand. Norman Rockwell ain’t got nothing on this family!
Christmas Eve: the First Feast
I had never heard of the “Seven Fishes” before, and was thrilled to learn about the Italian tradition. Every year, Italians celebrate La Vigilia de Natale, or the Labor of Mary, with a bereaved act of abstention: in honor of the birth of Christ, neo-Romans fast the day away, and, in one final tithe, opt away from red meat for the evening, instead gorging themselves on fish as only Italians can, channeling not only the holy ghost but the spirit of the vomitoriums of yore. Here in America, we call this meal the Feast of Seven Fishes. His Aunt’s Cioppino blew me away, from the flavor to the serving pieces to the delicious bread for dipping. Yum.
Christmas Day: the Mega Feast
This meal started off with homemade Italian Wedding Soup, with homemade ravioli and meatballs. I’m going to stop saying homemade at this point, since just about everything was! Now, I was instructed not to fill up on this soup, so I felt set up for success around this meal. Alright, here comes the pasta – I’m ready. Ravioli stuffed with veal, more stuffed with cheese. Cheesy focaccia, marinated antipasto and artichoke. Spaghetti with anchovy aka “dirty” spaghetti and spaghetti with bolognese. I was in heaven. I made it a point to try everything and boy was I stuffed! When we finished, I quietly asked my boyfriend if we could go sit in the living room to stretch out and relax. That’s when it happened. He took my hand, looked at me with compassion in his eyes and calmly said ‘Babe, we still have the main course.’
Ham, turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, salad, and vegetables magically appear on the table. I’ve been had. I thought I had this thing under control, but alas. When the feast was all said and done, I was a new definition of full. Full of the best Italian food I’ve ever had, full of appreciation for being welcomed into their home, and full of love from his big Italian family.
Best first Christmas ever.