Christmas season always began the day after Thanksgiving, in my multi-cultural New Orleans home. My father's cutting a fresh evergreen and dragging it into the family room was the first of many traditions for the holiday season. Preparations for the next month were a family effort: decorations, meals, gifts, caroling, family Rosaries, Nativity pageants, and of course Midnight Mass.
With Vic Damone swooning in all corners of the room, childhood celebrations consisted of: rich Italian food, such as bruccialuna, (beef stuffed with an Italian mixture of ground beef or ham, cheeses and bread crumbs), stuffed artichokes, and rosettes, (thin fried dough), and an overabundance of gifts for loved ones. The matriarch was in charge, my Sicilian mother; her personality was very charismatic and altruistic. Though we celebrated most joyfully, my mother always reminded us of the less fortunate, especially during this time of year.
It was not uncommon for my parents to go the extra mile for someone in need: either by providing home cooked meals, by sewing clothes for a family, or by helping renovate a home for someone in need. I distinctly remember one year after Thanksgiving, painting the interior walls and fully furnishing someone's home whom I had never met...until Christmas. The surprise for that family over thirty five years ago was, and still is unforgettable.
The greatest gift my Sicilian mother and my Croatian father gave my brothers and me was the gift of their faith and implementing that faith through works of charity.
I continue their legacy by spreading God's love through my God given talents by sharing with family, friends, and… people yet to be friends.
May God bless you and your loved ones throughout this sacred season!