Since forever and forever (my forever ago) Christmas Eve has been the most standout holiday of the year. It sparkled brighter than Christmas. It had more traditions and excitement. And the best food all year was Christmas Eve dinner.
Seafood. Fish. As many as you could fit in the kitchen. My mom held reins on Christmas Eve dinner for years. Everyone came to our house. No one would have it any other way. Because it was the best. I remember spaghetti with spicy tomato scungilli sauce. Or calamari sauce. Seafood salad with lobster, crab, squid, and shrimp. Huge Shrimp Scampi (that came in 5-lb boxes from the fish store at the dock in Bay Shore, LI). Sometimes we’d get fried calamari as take-out from our favorite restaurant to add to the fun.
My mom’s gonna sit back on this one this year. I’m making the attempt. It’ll be clams oreganata, steamed mussels with cannellini beans and bacon. Crabmeat cannelloni. Cod with parmigiano crumbs. Shrimp Scampi. Okay it’s not 7 of the traditional Seven Fishes, but…enough. Yet bigger than the menu: this dinner is intricately entwined with love. Somehow, this meal, captures who we all are.
I can feel it, you know. I can feel the history in my genes. In my blood. In my heart and soul. I “get it.” I get where I came from. Brooklyn. New York. And Italy. I look at photos from the days even before I was born. At my family. At my parents. At my relatives. All contributed to who I am.
They are all in there. Making me familiar to myself because I know them.
This holiday reconnects me every time. As the days and hours get closer to 12/24 I can feel the air, the world, the atmosphere get fuller. Start to envelope me in all that I came from, all of these people who made me. Their love, warmth, spirit, and lasting charm are with me the strongest now.