Sleepy Hollow Journalism Students Report, An Italian Christmas Eve

As a holiday writing assignment, River Journal and students from a SHHS Journalism class teamed up to share some special holiday memories. Please enjoy this piece from Chloe Smercak.

Traditions, of any purpose, are usually passed down from generation to generation.

My family’s Christmas Eve tradition is no different. Italian Christmas Eve dinner at my grandparents’ house is chaos, and one of the few times a year we can all see each other at one time. My aunts and uncles and cousins all greet us at the door with multiple hugs and kisses (they had been there hours ahead of time). We have some time to catch up about each other’s lives… who went where; who did what, etc. A little while later, we get called to the dining room table and sit down to the delicious dinner my family all pitches in to cook. 

We never really knew or understood the significance of the seven fishes that had to be cooked into the meal, just that my grandparents’ grandparents did it for who knows how long. It is said that on Christmas Eve seven different type of fish need to be prepared. That’s not to say my family doesn’t bend the rules; for example, one fish could be put into two dishes, therefore counting as two different fish. Some of the dishes that we had  were baked baccala (dried cod) balls, anchovies, shrimp, baked cod, pasta with fish sauce, and so much more. Truthfully, I didn’t eat all of it, too much fish for me. But what really mattered was us all getting to spend time together as a family.

After eating the final course of dinner, and before dessert, we took a break. That’s when my cousins started begging to open their presents. And behold, among the wind-up toys and toy train set was a pile of perfectly wrapped presents sitting under the tree. "Only if you sing a Christmas song first!", my Grandpa said with a smile, half joking but still hoping. Much to everyone’s surprise, a couple minutes later a hasty rendition of "Deck the Halls" was performed and everyone took their places in the living room.

Once presents were opened and the sugar rush had turned into a crash, it was time to relax, at which point all the men in the room (excluding my grandfather) would fall asleep on the couch. After everyone roused their husbands and drove home, it was time to go to sleep. As I was getting to sleep, I couldn’t help but think how I would look back at some of these memories as some of the best times of my life, to remember and cherish forever.

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About the Author: Chloe Smercak