Tags: blessings, famiglia, family, food, Holiday Spirit, love of family, memories, politics, ramblings, Spiritual values, spiritual walk, Thanksgiving
In only a mere week Thanksgiving will be upon us again. Already preparations are under way – house cleaning is in my forefront of necessary evils! Thanksgiving is of course, an American holiday. The first Thanksgiving was celebrated back in 1621 by the Pilgrims with their new Indian friends who helped them survive the first harsh year in a new land. At least that’s the nice story we were always taught in school. The sad reality is that the story is not quite the accurate – or should I say – the full story! Governor William Bradford documented in his diary (Freedomworks) that the original Plymouth Colony was set up to be worked and shared equally amongst all of the Puritans. However that didn’t go quite as planned. It took about 3 years but by 1623 a simple change enacted by the Governor changed the outcome. A parcel of land was given to each family for them to work and use as they saw fit. What they yielded was their own instead of having to split amongst everyone. As a result folks began to want to produce more and to succeed. As a result 1623 was a year to be grateful for most of the Pilgrims and their friends. In my opinion this is actually a better story than the whitewashed one. Funny how history repeats itself – now if we could just learn those hard lessons?
But I digress – this is about how we see Thanksgiving in our family. It is not an Italian holiday in the sense of the American one but October 4th was the Italian harvest Festival Cerelia named for Ceres. She was the goddess of agriculture, grain, and fertility. La Festa del Ringraziamento (Festival of Thanks) is the reference to many religious days for various patron saints in Italy. These are all usually celebrated with family, friends, food, parades – and originally offerings such as first fruits of a harvest in thanks to the saint. The menu choices might not be quite the same but the joy of family and friends together over a splendid table is the same! For example they might offer ravioli con la zucca (pumpkin ravioli). Our family loves the wonderful roasted or smoked turkey – but our stuffing is made with Italian sausage. One of our favorite side dishes is lasagna! And of course we set out a huge antipasto for everyone to indulge themselves with. This week I will work on starting to make some of the cakes ahead of time – we enjoy several different ones all made with the great shaped pans I brought home from Italy. There are fancy fluted ones, tall layer cake pans in pyramid shapes, and fancy bundt style pans. Each lends itself to a shape that matches well with the type of cake batter and ultimate frosting or decorations used. Some are doused with Italian liquors or others sprinkled with sweet confetti candy. These line up next to the traditional pumpkin or mince pies in addition to an apple and a key lime pie! For myself, I cannot bear Thanksgiving without my mom’s creamed onions – and I am so grateful she is still with us to celebrate and well enough to make another batch of creamed onions!
So as I am cleaning house all week, knowing in no time the muss and fuss of cooking will begin, I find myself complaining that I have so much stuff to clean and so many rooms too! Then I realize how grateful I am that I have a home large enough to accommodate all of us when so many are homeless through no fault of their own. And then I resent that I have to work the night before instead of being home to get enough sleep before I start on the turkey and all the vegetables. And then I realize how blessed I am to have a job when so many do not. I think about how much food I must prepare and for how many people ( usually 26). Then I count again my blessings – I have enough food to feed my family and extended family! I have a beautiful family – and they all want to be together out of love, not obligation. And then I know the reality of my story – Count it ALL joy! I am truly and wondrously blessed!
Tags: blessings, Christ, Easter, famiglia, Italy, joy, memories, religion, spiritual walk, Tarquinia
This picture hangs on the hallway wall of my sister-in-law’s home. It is a depiction of a wonderful wood carved statue that resides in Tarquinia. Each Easter the town’s people and those from surrounding areas crowd into the old streets to herald the procession of this statue being carried up and down and around the steep cobblestone streets in adoration of the Risen Christ.
Town officials, the carabinieri, and townsfolk alike are not ashamed to show their praise for Him, none of the politically correctness scenarios hold them back. Some of the story of the statue is lost to me in translation but the story basically is that the town commissioned this beautiful statue of the Risen and Triumphant Christ. When completed, the statue was so magnificent that no one wanted the artist to ever again create such a masterpiece for anyone else. Here the story of the beauty of Easter is lost to me – the town blinded the artist so he was unable to see to create anything else! No one is sure how much legend and myth is mingled with fact in this story but one fact is for sure. The statue is magnificent and the town is devoted to it.
I don’t mean to sound as if I find this silly or foolish in any way. Rather I find it a testament to the townsfolk that in spite of a less than Christian-like beginning to the acquisition of the statue, they stand proudly and in joy and in sorrow for all that it means to them to celebrate Easter. In the midst of this there is not a carnival or other foolish trappings of a street party going on. The complete festival is a parade to showcase this staute, a reminder to the faithful of the true meaning of Easter. They have not forgotten but instead choose to honor Him openly joyously for al the world to see and partake with them. What inspires me even more is the total joy they worship with – not of fear or habit or sorrow – but complete unabashed joy at the Spirit of the Day – they rejoice in the Risen Christ and all that His Triumph signifies for all men. They have celebrated year after year for a century or more now, in good times and bad, war and peace, economic upturns and depressions, in feast and famine. What has happened to us here in a land that has been so mightily blessed, that we have lost that joy, that zeal? May our hearts return once again to that place of joy in Him as give thanks and praise for His Triumphant Resurrection.
Tags: Italy, Itri, memories, photographs, ramblings
It’s almost spring here in Florida and this is the time of year we normally visit overseas with family. Due to too many commitments here, we won’t be making a trip this year so I am missing Italy. For those of us who love Itri and the surrounding area, I thought a few March photographs might fill the heart for now.
Tags: Carnival of Genealogy, Christmas, famiglia, family, Holiday Spirit, Italy, Itri, memories, Presepi
This posting is supposed to be about other traditions such as those brought from overseas by ancestors. In our family’s instance, the tradition was brought to us by Valentino. He came from Italy where his family did not have Christmas trees until he was a teenager. Rather they used like most Italians a presepe display. Presepi are nativity sets but so much more than those we are used to here in the United States. Their displays are huge panoramas of Bethlehem! Interestingly these are often figures dressed in the garb native to the area where the owners live. For example, in Northern Italy it is not uncommon to see a more Bavarian look to figures. Napoli, where many famous and skilled artisans live and work often make the nativity figures to include famous persons. This year there are many versions of our President Obama being sold! But that is not the style Valentino grew up with!
His displays were something he and his brother would save their coins for all year long. During the Christmas season they would buy new figures to add to their growing display. He even remembers figures of Roman soldiers with swords holding a baby aloft! The first few years we set up our display, it was modest to his standards but my family loved it! By 1981 we had moved to Florida and purchased our first home. It was exciting to begin to build on our Christmas display. Valentino would set up a big sheet of plywood outside on our front porch area and he made a Bethlehem scene for our presepe. He covered the wood in sand and made ‘roads’ out of flour. He even had mountains he shaped out of chicken wire bases covered with brown burlap and stiffened with resin. We chose Fontanini figures for our nativity because of their classical Italian look and the fact they were virtually unbreakable. That was an important feature for our children’s sake! We began to fashion our own buildings too. Every evening we would take our own children outside and talk abo9ut the display with them, allowing them to touch and move figures. Soon we found neighbors and their children would come to look at our display too. Valentino would then each evening tell another part of the nativity story and share its meaning with the children. He would every day move the 3 kings closer to the stable where there was Mary and Joseph and animals – but no Babe. He would not be there be there until December 24th! That, too, is an Italian tradition. Valentino never caught his mother but she would somehow mysteriously manage to have the Babe appear in the manger each Christmas Eve without anyone seeing her!
Our display began to attract quite a bit of interest from friends and others over the years so we also made smaller version displays for our church. This too was something Valentino had experience with. His brother and several friends made a permanent display in Itri, Italy at the Sanctuario Madonna della Civita! That display is still there!
Once we moved to our current home, our display had grown too large and too valuable to leave outside. We began to make much more elaborate displays as finances allowed and we added more figures. We were most fortunate to travel to Bagna di Lucca to the Fontanini factory and we met several of the Fontanini family members. That wetted our appetites to grow our display! It became such a labor of love that we delight in sharing with neighbors, friends, coworkers each holiday season! We encouraged the tradition with our sons and each was gifted with their favorite style of Fontanini nativity sets also for when they are ready to begin their own family traditions!
Tags: Carnival of Genealogy, charity, Christmas, famiglia, family, Holiday Spirit, Italy, joy, love of family, memories, Peace
It may seem a bit early to many but for me it is typical. It is the week of Thanksgiving – and while I am thinking of all the blessings in my life in anticipation of Thursday, I am also thinking about Christmas. Like most Christians, I realize I am blessed most because of God’s gift of His Son – the Babe who was born Christmas morn!
So now you ask what this possibly has to do with Monday Madness or La Befana. Well, to be honest, I am feeling a lot like La Befana this year, more than ever as a matter of fact! La Befana is the Italian version of Santa Claus – although children also know Babo Natale. The Italian children all anxiously await the visit of La Befana. La Befana was an older woman who spent her life cleaning and cooking with her broom not far away from her grasp. Finally came the evening that 3 Wise Men stopped at her door. Greeting them with her broom in hand, she refused to go with them on their search for the Babe. After all she had cleaning and sweeping to do! Suddenly a few moments after they left, she realized what she had been asked. They were searching for the Baby Jesus! How could sweeping possibly be more important than that?! She ran after them, fast as she was able. Suddenly her broom took her aloft and she flew over rooftops searching to no avail. So now year after year she flies out again in search leaving small gifts in children’s stockings in hopes she finds the Babe!
Monday Madness? Yes indeed. See, it is holiday time and I am in full meltdown mode already. I am the world’s best list maker. I think I’ve mentioned before how writing lists helps me to calm through organization. Seeing it in writing means I can manage in smaller bites, crossing off as I go along. So here I am. List Time. The Thanksgiving menu has been rewritten at least three times and I have no idea why. It never varies from year to year. I suspect that is the problem. I really REALLY want to add something new. This year we decided to eliminate one item. I KNOW that will be a mistake that we will hear about for years to come – 2009 was the Thanksgiving WITHOUT lasagna. There ARE two turkeys and a ham though! Course there’s also half the friend’s list to feed! Why should I feel so frazzled, already worrying about decorating for Christmas? It is family tradition here in the Di Crocco household: the Saturday after Thanksgiving is DECORATE DAY! Out come boxes and boxes of decorations. Everything is unwrapped from the tissue paper and Bubblewrap™, lovingly placed out to think about Christmases past and people associated with each decoration. So many were from my grandmother and mother or from special friends. Every year meant a new ornament for each child, dated and signed with their name.
But back to Monday Madness. This year I am thinking more in terms of how blessed we are as a family. We have had our share of tragedies and sorrows along with the joy. We have family members out of work and struggling. Bills go up while paychecks remain static. Yet, I do have a job. It is one that gives me pride. It’s not one that pays enough to cover what I want covered but I am so much more blessed than others. In the midst of all the holiday frenzy and complaining about how much I have to do without enough time or money, I suddenly am forced to stop. Have I become lost like La Befana? Has sweeping the cobwebs become more important than remembering what the upcoming season is really about and what is really important? This year I want Monday Madness to settle to Calm, Peace, and Tranquility. Not just for me but for everyone. If I must rush from place to place, task to task. Let it be to share the Gift I have been blessed with. Not just to witness of my personal spiritual walk by testifying verbally. Rather, let me share my faith and my values by my deeds, my actions, my sense of peace, by love. Let me show love instead of, in spite of, and in the very face of hatred. Let me now unlike La Befana be willing and able to drop my broom.
Tags: ancestors, Carnival of Genealogy, famiglia, family, family history, Italy, Itri, love of family, memories
In Italy, All Saints Eve or Day of the Dead is day of remembrance and honoring the dead. There is some slight confusion or mingling of the two days – November 1st celebrates the saints and November 2nd is to actually honor the dead. I figured today I would explain to those not familiar with some of the Italian traditions about cemeteries in Italy. Land is at a premium in Italy – available land is needed for farms and housing. Each town though has a walled cemetery usually set outside the main part of town. Inside the walls of the cemetery are considered consecrated land having been blessed by the priest. There is usually an area where smaller metal or wooden crosses adorn the graves of those who cannot afford larger headstones. Headstones in Italy are often works of art with beautiful sculptures on them. Many also have an encased photograph of the deceased. The walls of the cemetery usually are also crypts for those who choose not to be buried in the ground. After approximately 20 years families will reuse the graves for others in the family. Bones of the buried are moved to what is called a bone room housed in the basement area of the chapel. This may seem morbid but is actually a matter of family honor. On this day once a year, everyone goes to the cemetery and honors their deceased ancestors! Flowers are everywhere including at the chapel. Families visit the graves often and bring flowers but this is a special day for everyone. Mass and prayers are offered up for all of the deceased. Sadly we Americans do not have anything of this nature and it is a shame. Our children are not taught to remember those who have gone before us. There is not an emphasis put on valuing what our ancestors did for us. In a land such as Italy where children understand that land and homes have passed from generation to generation, children learn of the sacrifices of their ancestors on behalf of family. It is the respect for family and history that endears Italy to so many of us. It is the call upon many of us to want to return to this sense of family and remembering with pride and gratitude that we understand forms the underpinnings of a civilization that will survive instead of merely exist until something else comes along to replace it.
So it was for me as my mother in law accepted and welcomed me to her family. I was never treated as only a daughter in law but I was loved as a daughter, a member of the family! Of course family has disagreements and times of strife but they are always family, always there to help, to liten, to offer advicde, to love! Famiglia!
Tags: Carnival of Genealogy, famiglia, memories, photographs, WWII
Tags: Carnival of Genealogy, Italy, Itri, memories, photographs
It’s Wordless Wednesday again –
Tags: Carnival of Genealogy, famiglia, family, Italy, photographs
One of the expected things is to find lots of cats on the farms. And the family farms in Italy are no exception!
Tags: ancestors, famiglia, family, Italy, Itri, love of family, photographs