When I was little, Christmas Eve was always spent with my dad’s family and Christmas Day with my mom’s. And this worked well for many years because back then, only the dads drove and everyone lived close by. But soon, things changed. My parents divorced. My relatives on my dad’s side of the family didn’t invite us over anymore. I met my husband and his family had their own traditions to follow, so there was a blending of ideals and favorite activities. We had our own children and for them, created new things that they soon cherished as tradition.
I’ve always found it intriguing how some traditions endure while others fade away. Have you noticed how many traditions are connected to people? So many traditions are our way of honoring those no longer with us. My mom’s parents lived just a few blocks away from us so every Sunday, we had a big family dinner. It was always an Italian dinner with antipasto, some form of pasta and meatballs, followed by salad. Italians tend to eat salad after their meal. After dinner, the adults would play Italian card games, whose rules I no longer remember because this tradition died when my grandparents did.
My mother is also gone now. December is always when I miss her most. Her birthday was December 30th and Christmas was her favorite holiday. We used to have these epic baking weekends, baking up trays of cookies to give out as gifts. I still do this every year, though that tradition came very close to ending, too.
Right after Mom passed away, my sister and I were planning the after-funeral menu. I said I’d bake her favorite Italian rainbow cookies. You’ve seen these in bakeries – the ones with the red, yellow, and green layers. She gave me her recipe years ago and I made a mistake following it. The recipe calls for almond paste, but I used almost filling, not knowing there was a difference. People tend to like my cookies better than Mom’s and this really bothered her. *laughs* We didn’t discover my error for about ten years, when she happened to be at my house while I baked them. I continued to bake them ‘wrong’ ever since. Well, at the funeral, my sister made a comment that so upset me, I swore I’d never bake them again. She claimed Mom never liked my cookies; she was just humoring me. I didn’t make them the first year after she passed away, but I do bake them every year now. Whether she liked them or not doesn’t really matter. It’s simply the act of baking them that connects me back to her and to one of our happier moments. I’m glad I decided not to let my sister’s comment ruin that moment.
The Rainbow cookies make an appearance in my latest book, Goodness and Light, book 4 in the Christmas in New York series from Tule. Main character Elena lost her mother, too. Like me, Elena got the recipe from her mom. There are so many traditions we allow to die for silly reasons – we’re too busy, we’re mad at certain people, and so on. Thankfully, we preserve a lot of traditions too – simply by amending them, tweaking them to fit a little easier into our lives at this moment.
That’s what it’s about – moments.