Italian Christmas Traditions

Thanks Jen for letting me Guest Post during your Sabbatical! Here is another post about Family Holiday Traditions

Growing up holidays were always a pretty big deal. I’m 3/4 Italian. My dad was Italian on both sides and my Mom was 1/2 Italian (her mom was Italian and her dad was English)..but lets face it 90% of the traditions she has are italian as her grandma also lived with them most of her life. My great-grandparents were never divorced but lived separately for MANY years…my grandmother was very Catholic and was of a generation that didn’t believe in divorce.

Every Christmas for as long as I remember we’ve made the same things. Italian Cookies, Butter Cookies, and homemade Raviolis. And every year when we make them we tell stories of how my grandmother and great grandmother used to make them differently. Several years ago my Aunt made everyone a binder of all my great-grandmother’s christmas recipes we use it every year.

2013-12-13 22.45.24

This year was no different. We made Italian Cookies.2013-12-18 23.13.49and as my mom iced them we joked about the way my great grandmother used to take a knife and individually ice each cookie…and we are way too impatient for that and just dunk the cookies into the icing (it’s a very thin icing).?Some years we went to NY to visit relatives and my cousins and I would make the cookies together. This year we exchanged text messages and photos of our cookies.?
christmastextsAll of our cookies:?HOLIDAY BAKINGThe way we make Ravioli’s has changed since my great-grandmother’s time. She used to use nothing but a rolling pin and a pasta board….yeah we tried that once and didn’t get very far….we now use the pasta attachments for the Kitchenaid (and let me tell you what used to be an all day affair is now done in less than 2 hours) and this year we added the ravioli attachment. I haven’t decided how I like that attachment yet…Ravioli MakingChristmas Eve was also a pretty big deal. We always celebrated the Feast of the Seven Fishes. I honestly never knew where this tradition came from. I just knew you either had 7 fish dishes to represent the 7 sacraments or 12 for the 12 disciples. However this year I decided to google about the feast and I found this website. And according to tradition back in the day Christmas Eve used to be a penitential day (similar to Good Friday) and many Italian Catholics didn’t eat meat until after they received communion at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.?2013-12-24 20.27.10I shared the article with my mom and this is what she had to say,?

The people from Naples are famous for their elaborate spreads of cold shellfish cocktails and hot fish dishes, as well as the?roasted peppers?and?antipasti.?—- ha ha that’s where i get it from…my grandmother was from a mountain town not far from naples/foggia italy

One thing I have learned over the years is no matter how old I get and whether we have dinner for 3 or dinner for 30 on Christmas Day the traditions are very important to me. It’s weird to have Christmas and not do any baking…even if we only make one batch of cookies. Every year we tell the same stories about how things used to be and how Grandma and Great-Grandma did things differently and laugh at their crazy stories. It’s a fun way to spend time together and I wouldn’t have the holidays any other way.?

Beth Anne is a single catholic blogger that blogs about the single life, being catholic, her love for Disney, her frugal adventures, her crazy cats, and other adventures she comes across. She lives in historical St. Augustine, FL and once received a postcrossing postcard that told her her city was like living in a Fairytale :). She blogs at and tweets @BethAnnesBest 

PSA for Tomorrow

Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve. Dean and I are planning a quiet night at home. Since neither of us drink (I’m a diabetic, he’s 17 years sober), the party scene just isn’t our gig. In fact, Dean calls NYE “amateur night.” But for the rest of the country, here’s an important PSA, and “Ricky don’t lose that number.”

NO excuses. Don??t drink and drive ??
and don??t ride with anybody who does.
Tipsy Tow, offered by AAA: You don??t
have to be a AAA member. From 6pm ?? 6am on
New Year??s Eve/Day they will take your
drunk self and your car home for FREE.
Save this number . . . 1-800-222-4357. Please
re-post this to help save lives.


New Old Traditions

One difficult aspect of the holidays in early parenthood is figuring out how to blend the traditions of two different families. I’ve found that one of the easiest ways to do this is not to adopt traditions of the mother’s or father’s family of origin, but to start brand new traditions for your own young family. There are many holiday traditions that families create that are unique to their families but I am attracted to old traditions that are rich in meaning but have largely gone by the wayside in our modern culture. During the holiday season, my husband and I have decided to “bring back” two old cultural traditions with our family:

St. Nicholas Day – Largely abandoned in favor of Santa Claus visiting on Christmas Eve, St. Nicolas traditionally left gifts in children’s shoes on the eve of his feast day, Dec. 6th. This was the second year St. Nicholas brought small gifts to Lucia (this year, gifts consisted of a book and felt St. Nicholas doll, last year was a felt Advent wreath).
St. Nicholas gifts
We also read The Baker’s Dozen and in the future I hope to incorporate even more into the celebration in the form of speculaas cookies, movies about St. Nicholas (I’m thinking this one may be Lucia’s St. Nicholas gift next year), and volunteering/donating on or around his feast day in honor of the generosity of this early Bishop. If you would like more examples of St. Nicholas celebrations or the reasons behind why many families are bringing back this celebration, here are a few other references and blog posts to refer to:
The St. Nicholas Center
New Shoes and St. Nicholas Day – Carrots for Michaelmas
St Nicholas Day is tomorrow, and why it’s worth adopting (or inventing) family traditions – Modern Mrs. Darcy
Celebrating St. Nicholas, the real Santa Claus – The Art of Simple

La BefanaA friend first introduced me to the Italian custom of La Befana but it wasn’t until I read Tomie dePaola’s book, The Legend of Old Befana that I saw the simple beauty of the old woman who left gifts in children’s stockings.
La Befana
As the legend goes, La Befana set out to bring homemade cookies and sweets to the Christ Child since, as a poor woman, this was all she could afford. She never found him though and every year still searches for him on the night of Jan. 5th, eve of the Epiphany. Since she doesn’t know which child might be the Christ, she leaves sweets for all children. The Epiphany is the feast celebrating the visit of the Three Wise Men to the baby Jesus and wraps up the twelve days of Christmas in the Christian liturgical calendar. I love the idea of a small treat for children on this day in the tradition of the Wise Men and also to keep the joy of Christmas and anticipation alive after Christmas Day. This will be our first year celebrating it and we will be doing it simply with a few of Lucia’s favorite snacks left out for her. We haven’t done much to celebrate the Epiphany in the past and are hoping that this will be a small step toward a larger celebration.

Mandi is a 20-something trying to live out her vocations of marriage, motherhood, and womanhood with the help of a glass of cheap red wine, a few good books, and an afternoon nap. She blogs at Messy Wife, Blessed Life and is pleased as punch to help her dear friend Jen during her blogging sabbatical.

It’s Christmas Eve

The countdown has started. It will end tomorrow morning when everyone gets up and opens presents. But between now and then, are you watching and waiting? We will be going to our “Midnight” lessons and carols (starts at 10:30pm and ends at midnight) as part of the vigil. I think the Christmas Eve service is one of my favorites, with all the candles, and passing the flame one to the next.

One of my favorite verses for this time of year is not from the Gospels, nor from the prophets. It is Galatians 4:4-5, which says:

4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.

I love the phrase “fullness of time” – I don’t know why, I just do.

Merry Christmas

And now for some intro stuff. My name is Kym, I’ve been happily married for 12 years to Dean. We live in a teensy tiny town (pop. 250) in the Tahoe National Forest (western slope of the California Sierra Nevada mountains). We go to church at Emmanuel Episcopal church in Grass Valley. We have 5 spoiled rotten cats. Jen and I first started chatting when she was in Minnesota. I’ve actually met her in person once – I’d been in a horrific car accident and she came to visit me in the hospital.

Solstice Sabbatical

Due to my laptop being sent in for repairs, I’ll be taking a sabbatical from blogging for the next two weeks as any online time I have will be because I’m borrowing a computer. ?This is irritating because I’m pretty dependent on it as I don’t have a smart phone. ?On the other hand, it will mean that I can focus on family and faith in this season and maybe I’ll be a bit less Scrooge-like. I’ve got some important reading to do as well as some personal journalling to do on some faith issues. I’m also looking forward to spending time with my parents and my in-laws.

I’ve had guest bloggers post while I’ve traveled before and I treasure those posts, especially after one of the guest posters passed away earlier this year. Because of this, I put out the request for some guest bloggers and had some takers. I’ll let them introduce themselves when they blog. 🙂

I hope all of you have a wonderful season of joy. I’ll be checking email sporadically so please feel free to email me (jen at grace-filled dot net) prayer requests if this is a really hard season for you.

Blessings to you all and see you in January!

HP, We Need to Talk

**UPDATE** It’s Christmas Eve and I’m borrowing Jon’s MacBook. HP had one of their people get in touch with me today and he listened to my complaints. He put in a request for the payment for the keyboard to be put back in my account and promised to follow up on all the shipping and repair stuff himself. I found it amusing that the escalation case manager I talked to was located in Toronto — Canadians would be the right people to outsource this stuff to as they’re usually so nice.

**UPDATE** After I pasted the link to this post on various HP forums, their Facebook page, my Facebook page, and their Twitter, someone took notice and got in touch with me via email.

Hello Jennifer,

Thank you for contacting HP Total Care.

I appreciate that you have forwarded the concern to us. I regret the inconveniences caused by this issue.

Jennifer, as this concern requires special care and personal attention, we are escalating it to our Advanced Support Group. They would get back to you shortly. Please bear with us for a while.

HP Total Care

I’m going to cross my fingers and hope that they can not only fix my laptop situation but also get me my money back for the keyboard.

To the powers who are at HP:

I think we need a separation. It’s not you, it’s me. Oh wait… it’s totally you.

My precious sweetling decided to remove keys from my laptop last Sunday so I went onto the HP Parts store and ordered a new one, paying for expedited shipping so it would come during this past week while Daniel was at school so I didn’t have him try to “help” me install it.

It hadn’t arrived by Tuesday afternoon so I called y’all up since my order number did not work on your website. Your people told me that it hadn’t shipped yet… which was interesting because I paid for expedited shipping, not “ship whenever you darn please” shipping. You offered to refund my shipping 4 business days after it arrived. After listening to me grumble, you told me to call the next day for tracking information. When I called the next day, you told me that it was backordered and wouldn’t be shipped out until January 15th and that whoever I talked to the day before should have told me that.

I was less than happy and made this known. I called up Customer Service to complain about this and the customer service rep in India informed me that my laptop was under warranty and that if I wanted to mail it in, they could replace the keyboard and the other problems that have cropped up over the last two years. By the way, my laptop is less than two years old and I’ve had to replace the keyboard three times (two of them were from Daniel but one of them is on you), I had to replace the hard drive last year, the moulding has broken so there is masking tape on it to keep me from cutting myself, the fan is malfunctioning, and my webcam is dead. Did I mention that this is a laptop that is LESS THAN TWO YEARS OLD?!?!?!?!? I also use this laptop for everything including the work I do as a copy editor. I grumblingly agreed to mail it in; and to your credit, you actually sent me the packing material in a timely fashion.

I went online to cancel the order for the keyboard which you told me wouldn’t be charged to my credit card until it shipped and discovered that you lied to me about that and took it out of my PayPal account. Given that you weren’t planning to send me the keyboard any time soon, I filed a dispute with PayPal which you have yet to answer.

Two days pass and a strange person enters my backyard and puts a small box on my back porch. Apparently, someone in your warehouse in Tennessee decided to slap a shipping label on it and send it to me… without instructions or a packing slip. I spent about 2 hours today getting bounced between the the HP Parts store and Customer Service who finally told me just to include the keyboard in the packing material and they’d install it when the laptop went in for maintenance. One problem: if I send the keyboard in with my laptop, I’m paying $80 for what should be a free fix under warranty. I told the the HP Parts store this and the supervisor I talked to informed me that I had screwed up by ordering the keyboard myself instead of calling Customer Service and paying for the privilege of being told that it wasn’t under warranty and would need to order a new one. I could return it for my money back but I’d have to call the post-shipment department which wouldn’t be open until Monday… when my laptop was supposed to be picked up by Fed Ex. They’d email me a shipping label which again would be unhelpful because MY FREAKING LAPTOP WOULD BE IN TRANSIT!!!!!!!!!!! When I objected and told them that I resented paying $80 for the privilege of using my warranty, the person replied that they weren’t in it for my money — they were interested in my business.

Yeah… I don’t know exactly where your company screwed up though I’m guessing it was when Carly Fiorina took over and outsourced everything to China and India. It might also be because Meg Whitman is now the CEO and she’s pretty much in it solely for the money. All I know is that if you actually cared about my business, you would not be bouncing me between Mumbai and Costa Rica for two hours and having people give me five different answers. I’m from Silicon Valley and I have family friends who worked for HP when I was growing up and I believe in the company… or at least I used to until now.

I didn’t want to play the “I’m an important person and you need to bow to my every whim” card because I know that I hated when people tried to play that card when I worked retail. However, I am a blogger and I have the power to broadcast this across the Internet and potentially impact the purchasing decisions of many people. This entire experience has made me incredibly reluctant to recommend your products and to give you my business ever again when I need to replace this laptop or my printer. I am not happy about this — everything else I’ve bought from you has been excellent or at least functional and I really love the printer/scanner/copier of yours that I bought last spring. However, my laptop has been a piece of junk and I’m honestly ashamed to admit that I patronized your company.

So… you need to seriously do something about your customer service. You have most likely lost this customer and you stand to lose many more when other people read about my experience. I’m willing to update this entry and add any overtures you make toward fixing my situation but I’m only going to do it if I see some real change.

In the mean time, I’m off to make some plans for how I’m going to get stuff done while you have my laptop for two weeks.

7 Quick Takes: Favorite Christmas Songs

7 Quick Takes

Why yes, I am aware that we have one more Sunday of Advent before Christmas starts. 🙂 I am usually teh Scrooge at this time of year because Christmas is a religious holiday for me, and I’m not amused at the secular celebration of it.

— 1 —

“2000 Decembers Ago” sung by Joy Williams. I first heard this on KLOVE yesterday while waiting for my prescriptions at Walgreens. (I was in my car in the drive-thru lane — Walgreens isn’t playing anything this religious in their stores.) I love the words and I love the haunting quality of the music.

— 2 —

“Go Tell It On the Mountain” sung by NEEDTOBREATHE. I love this Christmas carol enough to sing along in the car when it plays. (OK… that isn’t a stretch for me — I sing along to everything.) I love the encouragement to tell aloud the news of Christ’s birth. I also have good memories of being on a Christmas train ride 25 years ago when I first heard it.

— 3 —

“The Huron Carol” sung by the Canadian Tenors. I love how this carol combines the Christmas story with elements of Huron culture. It dates back a few hundred years and was written by a French Jesuit priest (St John de Brebeuf, SJ). It’s also one I remember from attending Midnight Mass with my grandfather.

— 4 —

“Gabriel’s Message” by the Good Shepherd Band. This is a Basque carol and I love its haunting quality. The Good Shepherd Band keeps its plainsong sound and there are beautiful harmonies. The instrumentation is fairly minimal and enhances it rather than detracting from it.

— 5 —

“For Unto Us A Child Is Born” from Handel’s Messiah. I sang the Messiah with the San Jose Symphonic Choir for their “You-Sing-It” one during high school and college though this has been one of my favorite choruses since I was a kid. It’s one that I can sing from memory (for both the soprano and alto parts) and it figured into today’s devotion from Our Daily Bread.

— 6 —

“The Rebel Jesus” sung by Jackson Browne. I first heard this song (and this album) in December 1991 (my family is hugely into the Chieftains and we’ve seen them in concert) and it’s been a favorite of mine since then. It brings to light some of the not so sweet aspect of Jesus’ life at a time of the year when his innocence and sweetness as a baby seems to be the focus. It also brings to light the hypocrisy in our giving and our materialism.

— 7 —

Need guest posters. I’m needing to take a blog break for two weeks while my laptop is off at HP being repaired and while I’ll be visiting family. I’d like to have some people guest post during that time so if you’re interested, email me — jen at grace-filled dot net.

For more Quick Takes, visit Jen at ConversionDiary.Com.