Eden Team Members Sharing their Holiday Celebration Traditions
December 16, 2022
Eden team members took a moment to share some of their most memorable holidays from years past and the traditions they treasure today.
La Famiglia Mandolini Pasta Quest
When I was 13, my Nonna (Italian for grandma) taught me how to make pasta. For Christmas, we have a family tradition of making a type of tortellini called cappelletti that we serve as the first course at Christmas dinner. For many years Nonna and I would make 1,000 tortellini every year to serve at the Mando family dinners on both coasts. When my Nonna passed away, she left me her 3 foot long rolling pin and my cousin Mario and my nephew Brendan both signed up to help me out.
They sometimes bring their girlfriends along to help – I think it was a way to test their capacity to be part of our family tradition. It’s 10 hours of pasta making! This year, my niece ZuZu will join Mario and me and try her hand at her first stage in what we call “The Tour D’Tortellini.” We are up to nearly 1400 pieces of pasta. We will make pasta on 12/10 and then celebrate how lucky we are to have such a tight family by holding dinners on both coasts and toast the amazing spirit of Nonna.
Family Time, Dismuke Style!
My family’s background was different than many others in that we never celebrated Christmas like some around us did. However, since a lot of us are off work at this time of year, our culturally- and ethnically-diverse family and friends use the time off for fun winter get-togethers. This is cherished family time around the warmth of a fireplace. We have some really nice family traditions like going to Capitola to get apple pie, hanging out for days in PJs, cooking gobs of food, eating gobs of food, trying new whiskeys (not the kids), playing board games, and watching movies. It seems the crowd gets bigger every year. Might need a bigger place.
Breaking Bread with My Family
My grandma is Serbian Orthodox and they celebrate Christmas and New Years in January (based on the old calendar?). One of my favorite traditions is the breaking of the bread loaf, we call pogaca, what makes this bread special and unique is grandma puts a coin inside (like a quarter or a dollar coin wrapped in foil) and everyone breaks a piece a piece of the bread. The coin is considered lucky and whoever finds the coin will have luck or good things happen to them for that year.
Everyone partakes in this activity, family, friends and kids, and it is always exciting to see someone find the coin. And if we leave before anyone finds the coin, we typically follow up with the family to see who ended being the lucky person.
Christmas Time for The Williams!
Unfortunately, we didn’t have many traditions growing up but through the strength of my wife and her family, Christmas time is a really big thing for our family! Each year, the family gets dressed up in pajamas for Christmas Eve with my wife’s siblings, all their kids (about 25 total), and all the parents. Each year, my wife finds a new matching pajama outfit for the Williams to wear (we can be a bit extra at times! 🙂 ). We pass out all the gifts at midnight and let the kids open them after all are passed out. I kid you not, it’s literally 200+ gifts to pass out and open – mostly for the little kids but even the adult kids get a lot of gifts.
My wife is Filipino with a big family!! The night usually ends around 2-3am and then we all head home. Each family will spend Christmas Day with their immediate family. For the Williams, we spend the morning letting the kids open the gifts that we bought them and spend the evening at Grandma and Uncle Charlie’s house in San Jose where Grandma spoils the kids even more!! It’s all love and the kids have a blast. That’s all that matter for us…
Christmas Starts on Sept 1st!
Growing up in PI, we did not go trick-or-treating on Halloween (we had All Souls Day and All Saints Day) and we did not have Thanksgiving Day.
What we had was Christmas, and it’s the longest Christmas anywhere on Earth! We start celebrating on Sept 1st and it does not end until January 6th! That’s 4 months of parties, seeing family, exchanging gifts, and karaoke!
I grew up loving the season so much because my mom and aunt would always make sure our home had decorations and sparkly, twinkling lights. There’s also a tradition of attending Simbang Gabi (Night Mass) where families would go to church late at night or super early in the morning and hear mass. Once the service is done, there would be vendors outside selling traditional Filipino rice snacks (Google: Bibingka and PutoBumbong). One could smell the aroma of the dishes coming out of the vendor’s cart and it would just be heavenly.
Then, our entire family gets together on Dec 24th and we have Noche Buena (Night before Christmas dinner), then we exchange gifts.
I carry the love I have for this season now that I am here in America, and I hope to share all these memories with my own little family and create our own traditions that will last a lifetime.
My earliest memories of Christmas are of bundling up so tight you had to waddle through the snow. We would travel all across Rhode Island (Even venturing into the wilds of Connecticut…What?! Rhode Islandas consider ten miles a long journey!) to visit our extended family (including my father’s first wife and adult children) to celebrate and exchange baked goods and gifts.
My father passed when I was only ten and those traditions ceased altogether, but the memories live on! As I grew older and my home-life became a series of foster care and State facilities, the holidays held very little stability, but I still found joy in the season and in my heart and carried that into adulthood. Thankfully, my children have never known a time when the season was not bright with cheer and festivities.
One such repeated festivity, when all three were still young, was assembling (and then eating!) a gingerbread house. On one unforgettable occasion, decorating the inside rather than the outside and then having to “crack” it open because we used too much frosting and everything was glued together too tight!
Another of my favorites continues to this day with watch parties of Elf, The Grinch (Jim Carey, of course!), and once in a while…Home Alone!
Being together in spirit is something that will never grow old and helps us stay connected across the miles/years.