Christmas Eve in these Trying Times

Christmas Eve certainly looked different this year. Then again, what hasn’t? In my family. I am the traditionalist. I prefer when we do things exactly as they have been done for the last ten years at least. Apparently, Christmas Eve used to look different – back before I can remember – and my mom always laughs when I say “this is how it’s always been done”. Let’s take it back a few weeks to Thanksgiving weekend, to set the scene:

  • The weekend after Thanksgiving (Black Friday-Sunday) traditionally are our Christmas decorating days because we are all home and avoid going out anywhere because of the looney Long Island Black Friday shoppers. Between removing the fall decorations and bringing out ALL the Christmastime ones, it can take up to two days. We have Thanksgiving leftovers (my sister makes the F.R.I.E.N.D.S-themed “moist-maker” sandwich. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, need a mental refresh, or want a good chuckle, click here ) and then we eat American-Chinese food for dinner. Sitting here thinking about it has my stomach growling. Someone send me a Sesame Chicken combo platter, stat!
  • Cut to a scene somewhere in mid-December (normally the weekend right before Christmas). That’s when we put up the tree…which requires the help of an army because, lordy…do we have too many ornaments. There’s over 700 at least. This year, we did not hang everything simply because 2020. Again, I’ve declared this a Chinese food weekend and everyone follows along. I mean, who doesn’t like Chinese food, but still. It’s what we have done for the last ten years, at least!

So you see, it’s a pattern with me. The things I think of as “traditions” are often just because I have declared them as such, except for Christmas Eve and the ensuing dinner. In normal times, our day begins at my great-aunt’s house for strufoli making. Usually, all three of my siblings, my brother-in-law, my uncle and his girlfriend and I will go to her house and prepare them. It only takes about an hour with all of us working on them. Sadly, because of 2020, the team was more intimate and we had to go on the weekend rather than Christmas Eve. We still went to my aunt’s house, but it was just me and my uncle’s girlfriend cutting the dough, my aunt rolling the dough, and my uncle frying the dough. We still had Christmas tunes and my aunt couldn’t help but to serve a plate of cheese and crackers, and we all wore masks and stayed a good distance from one another. Never in my life have I been more cautious about keeping my hands clean and about not cross contaminating things.

I’m Italian and Greek, but we follow the Italian holiday traditions much more closely. For us, we have the Feast of Seven Fishes, and I don’t eat a single one. My family prepares Shrimp Cocktail as a starter. For our pasta course, a Linguini with Clam Sauce. Finally, the main course is Bacala, Fried Eel, Calamari Salad, Salmon, and Scallops. Even though I don’t eat the fish, it was certainly strange to make so few dishes for this particular holiday. Since I don’t eat the shrimp cocktail, I made myself an antipasto plate with salami, some chicken breast, and slices of cheese.

The church didn’t have a live midnight mass celebration scheduled. We attended 9pm mass. There were MAYBE twenty people inside the church, they gave out communion at the end, and the priest’s homily was so fast that we were home from church before the hour was over. We exchanged gifts with my aunt, since we wouldn’t be seeing her on Christmas Day. Then dessert and then bed by midnight. I have never gotten to sleep so early on Christmas Eve, and honestly…I hope to be able to get to bed earlier next year. I’m an old woman at heart. After 9pm, I’m ready for sleep, haha! It also felt really good to be able to go for a solo walk on Christmas Day. It was cold, sure, and windy, but felt great to be on my own with just a pair of headphones in my ear. I listened to a bit of my audiobook and then jammed out to some excellent music. I thought I bumped into some friends of mine, but I was wrong…or maybe they just didn’t feel like stopping to talk to me? Whatever…

Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve, and I can hardly contain my excitement and anxiety. I feel so frazzled lately with 2021 encroaching. What’s going to happen next? I’m working on a whole post on that topic — stay tuned! For now, take a look at some scenes from a 2020 Christmas celebration.

Stay safe — be kind — wear a mask!


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