By Rana DiOrio, author of the award-winning What Does It Mean To Be . . . ?® series
Christmas was always magical in my home. My parents went all out for us. We usually had our tree and stockings – handmade by my mom – up the weekend after Thanksgiving. My parents would give this astonishingly fabulous party the Saturday night before Christmas every year. Despite demanding professional jobs, they found the time to host this gala, for which they prepared everything themselves, each season to celebrate with friends.
Then came Christmas Eve—the best night of the whole year! We hosted many members of my Italian family for a sit-down, five-course feast. Although it would have been a lot easier to cut corners, we never served the meal buffet style, and we always used our finest china, crystal, and sterling, all of which had to be washed by hand.
The house always looked so festive. My mom’s brother, Uncle Frank, a very talented florist who owned a flower shop, helped us to decorate the house with panache—beautiful festoons over each fireplace, lush garlands wrapped around the handrails, stunning wreaths on each door, poinsettias everywhere, and breathtaking flower arrangements for each table.
We had two long tables, one for the adults in the dining room and one for the “kids” in the adjacent “dark paneled room.” My brother and I were at the time the youngest of the DiOrio tribe, so the “kids” were young adults. Our table was always the most fun. Before we served the first course, my Dad would call on one of the cousins to say grace. Some years, he would give the chosen person advance notice so they would have time to think about their message and write it down. Other years, he would just call them out, and put them on the spot to say grace, which the aunts especially would always critique. In either case, the grace giver would stand between the two rooms before all 40 or so of us and bless our family, our meal and those who prepared it, and remember those who were less fortunate.
After the five courses, which included the traditional feast of the seven fishes, the massive clean-up commenced. As my family is a trifle patriarchal, my mom, my Auntie Dolores, my cousins Karen and Lisa, and I would clear and wash everything (did I mention by hand?). My Auntie Dolores frowned upon throwing away “good wine”, so she would polish off any that remained in the cleared glasses. That is, until she would inevitably break something while washing at the sink, at which point I would finish the job, and Auntie would take a rest and drink some decaf.
Then, at 10:00 pm, my mom and I would leave for church. We sang in the choir and attended a rehearsal before midnight mass. My dad and brother, our grandparents, and sometimes a few of our other relatives would join us for mass. To this day, I don’t know how we managed to conjure all the energy year after year. It must be attributable to the miracle and grace of Christmas.
If you’d like to help your children say grace, consider gifting them:
From all of us at OnlineMom to all of you, have an especially wonderful and meaningful holiday season.
NOTE: This post originally appeared on the Little Pickle Press blog in December 2010 and has been adapted by the writer for OnlineMom.