Note: This post was first published on my blog Little Bit(ch) in 2012. It’s an oldie, but a holiday goody. Enjoy!
I’m not one of those people who look forward to the holidays. I’m not a Grinch, but I definitely sense some Scrooge within me.
I delay in putting up decorations, I only give hugs as gifts (because I’m cheap) and I don’t necessarily enjoy Christmas carols.
The one thing I do delight in is the dysfunction of my family- and dysfunction + Christmas = treasured memories.
If you’re Italian, you celebrate Fish-mas.
Every year on Christmas Eve, my little Italian grandparents sacrifice an ocean’s worth of fish and fry it/bake it/try to hide it in spaghetti sauce.
For rookies attending their first fish-mas, there are several rules one must follow.
Leave your coat in the car: If you wear your winter coat into a house celebrating fish-mas, you will need to plastic bag that sucker and find a dry cleaner/ bottles of febreeze. You do not want to be the guy (or especially girl) who smells like fish for the rest of the holiday season. People will mock you, and refuse to sit near you.
Dress appropriately: By dressing appropriately, I don’t mean dressing up or wearing your favourite new sweater you bought for holiday parties. Wear clothes you can burn afterwards – because you will want to burn your clothes afterwards to get the smell of fish out of them.
Brace yourself: You are going to be overwhelmed by a mass quantity of food. The proper etiquette is to eat a little bit of everything, so as not to offend the little wops. They don’t care if you’re full – A nice trick I’ve learned is filling a plate of assorted foods, taking it into the living room so you can watch the channel that has the fireplace burning, and throwing it out the front door into the garden for some woodland creature to take home to its squirrel family.
Don’t laugh at the theology: Christmas is never a good time to talk about Catholicism to an elderly Italian man. I’m fairly certain that my Nonno is still angry that he didn’t become a priest. One Fish-mas I was so overwhelmed by the smell of fish that I asked my grandparents why we couldn’t eat turkey like ‘regular white people.’ My Nonno looked me in the eye, and deadpanned “Baby Jesus ate fish on Christmas Eve- so we eat fish on Christmas Eve.” I remember thinking that there was no way that could be true for a plethora of reasons so I left it alone. Then there comes the ceremonial blessing before dinner – again, little Tony, the patriarch of our famiglia said “Dear Jesus, we want to thank you for this food, thank you for coming, and we wish you all the best.”
Immediately my cousin and I burst out laughing then we decided, as a matter of fact, we DO wish Jesus all the best.
Bring Your Earplugs Putting my family in closed quarters with an assortment of alcohol is dangerous. It’s inevitable that there will be an argument, some time after the pasta course. It will get very loud, people will threaten to leave, suddenly take up smoking after years of having quit, some one will cry (usually the elderly) and I take this as my cue to go watch that log burning channel and throw out my food. Nothing will be off limits: Someone will insist that on Christmas 1953, baby Angie had pneumonia and there was 4 feet of snow. Then some one will say, in 1953, they had a Buick, and they remember driving on Christmas Day and the roads were fine. Then suddenly, you’re arguing about how in 1999, one brother loaned some one 100 dollars and NEVER got it back. This tension can only be broken by some one falling down after one too many glasses of vino– and suddenly everyone will be too frazzled to remember what they were arguing about.
Remember to take it all in: Remember that one day, you’ll miss these crazy, dysfunctional and clinically insane people – and all you’ll have left are memories of Fish-mas’ past.