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Christmas as celebrated by the Amodio family.  Photo courtesy of the City of Edmonton Employee Publication, 1978.Not only do the holidays of Christmas and Easter have religious significance (the origin of "holiday" is, after all, "holy day"), but they also have their special foods and traditions.  See the article titled "Buon Natale" below for a description of some Christmas traditions as Lina Amodio remembers them from her childhood in Naples.

On Christmas Eve, which used to be a day of abstinence, meat is not eaten.  The traditional foods thus are meatless dishes, including fish.  The whole family then goes to midnight Mass.  There are also a number of special pastries only made for Christmas, which vary from region to region of Italy.
'Strega Nona' or 'Grandmother Witch' as depicted by Tomie de Paola.  Reprinted with permission from On Epiphany, January 6th, a witch or "Befana" brings gifts for good girls and boys.  An American author/illustrator of Italian and Irish heritage, Tomie de Paola, has written and illustrated many wonderful children's books featuring a befana named "Strega Nona" ("Grandma Witch"). 

By Bonnie Kulak                        

The traditional Italian Christmas features a 13-course meal Christmas Eve. Carlo and Lina Amodio might not make the entire 13, but Lina figures they're "pretty close."
Carlo, a draftsman supervisor with the Planning Department, and his wife carne to Canada about 11 years ago. Their nine-year-old son Maxie and seven-year-old daughter Marianne were born in Canada so are not familiar with much of the Italian Christmas tradition. Mrs. Amodio remembers her childhood in Naples where fried eels were a special treat of the season.
"It was always a big job to kill them," she says. "They had such hard skin and they'd go everyplace. My mother would cut the head off and they'd still jump around. Even in the frying pan. The octopus, too. They'd go all over the kitchen."
But the frozen eels here don't look too appetizing so Mrs. Amodio prepares her Christmas Eve feast with clams, octopus, squid, shrimp and cuttlefish.
Struffoli, little cookies made with honey, and Cassata, Sicilian cake made with Italian cottage cheese, are two of the many other special Italian foods the Amodios enjoy at Christmas.
Befana visits the children on January 6th each year.  Photo courtesy of Il Congresso.Santa visits Maxie and Marianne Christmas Eve. But Mrs. Amodio says "Befana" was the season's gift-bearer in Italy. Befana was a kind of witch bringing toys and presents January 6 to all the children.
Nativity scene.  Photo courtesy of Il Congresso.The Amodio family usually makes a nativity scene each Christmas. They use little figurines and paper-mache stables and cradles. These nativity scenes can be entered in a contest at their church.


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