I love hearing what holiday traditions families and friends create and hold steadfast year after year. While I was growing up, we always had a wonderful dinner and opened gifts on Christmas Eve. The excitement of Christmas morning was what Santa brought and the treats in our stockings.
I carried on this tradition with my sons. We would graze on a honey-baked ham prior to the Christmas Eve services marathon (I had 3-5 services!). We’d get home about 1:00 AM and open gifts and eat the cinnamon rolls I somehow found time to bake, making it to bed about 3:00 in the morning. I then made sure Santa was able to get in and make his deliveries and fill stockings.
My brother and sister-in-law are known for being the all-holidays-party-central. There are all of the birthday parties for my three nieces, and annual Easter Egg Hunt for about 120, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Fourth of July, Just-Because-It’s-Time-for-a-Party, New Year’s Eve, and the Christmas Eve-Eve Cioppino Feed.
This year my husband and I got to experience our first Cioppino Feed. My sister-in-law, in true style, has every room in the house completely decorated. I never knew people really had Christmas decor for their bathrooms! This is a sit-down dinner for 30 of their closest friends. The tables are exquisite with candles, fresh greens, pine cones, and pyracantha acquired by the nieces, at night, in the neighborhood drive-through. Each place setting is complete with chargers (I didn’t even know what those were!), plates, bowls, and all appropriate accoutrements. Martha Stewart would pale in comparison!
The wonderful thing about cioppino is that it’s origins are in sharing. The idea for this fish stew started in San Francisco in the 1800s. The Italian fishermen would throw in the leftovers from their daily catch in a tomato broth. I can only imagine the fish stories around those tables!
My sister-in-law makes the broth and everyone throws in their fish: shrimp, scallops, crab, and clams. White rice, garlic bread, and wine complete the meal. There is lots of merriment and the toasts begin. This year, there were several blessings to celebrate: babies, end of medical treatment, kids getting driver’s licenses, friendships, and family.
Christmas was my busiest season so I’ve never been able to participate in any of my brother’s Cioppino Feeds. Of course, I’ve always been invited and have always heard about the event. It was wonderful to finally meet so many of their friends I’ve been hearing about over the years and share in a special holiday tradition they started many years ago.
Life is always full of twists and turns, milestones and markers. I believe that the traditions we create are touchstones. They are landing places where we connect with those who are important to us and offer an opportunity to celebrate those values we hold dear to our hearts.
What are your traditions?