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Nonna and Nonno Amodio with their granddaughter.  Photo courtesy of the Heritage Community Foundation.The carriers of these traditions were and remain the elders-the nonnos (grandfathers) and nonnas (grandmothers). They were also the keepers of memories and tellers of tales who were able to recount all of the stories from the home town.  They kept track of the geneaology and who was related to whom.  On first meeting, the nonni would quickly size you up and say, "Ah, you are so-and-so's daughter or son."  Individual identify was rooted in family and community and was tied to the land.

BecauseThe First Church in Venice, Alberta.   Photo from the book Hylo-Venice:  Harvest of Memories so many of the customs and traditions of the community revolved around the sacred, it is surprising that Alberta's largest cities, Edmonton and Calgary, did not have Italian churches until 1958 for Edmonton and 1965 for Calgary.  The agricultural colony in Venice built a church in 1925 and had a priest from Italy, Father Carlo Fabbris.  The community history book, Hylo-Venice Harvest of Memories notes:  

The first major event involving the new parish was a visit by Bishop O'Leary in July of 1925 to confirm all eligible children in the parish.  The 1925 event was marked by a huge outdoor celebration.  Parishioners all pitched in and tables were set up all along the present main road through Venice.

Paul Michetti and Joe Tisi were the main cooks.  Mrs. Anne Biollo (wife of O.J. Biollo) baked all of the cakes for dessert.  This event was the forerunner of the famous Venice Picnic.1

The Venice community also built its school and set up an Italian language program with materials sent from Italy.   

The Scalibrini fathers were important in the life of the Italian community in both Edmonton and Calgary.  Their order was set up in the late 19th century in Italy to tend to the spiritual needs of Italian immigrants in North America. Santa Maria Goretti church and hall in Edmonton's "Little Italy".  Photo courtesy of Rudy Cavaliere. They came from their North American headquarters in Chicago and not only helped to build the churches but to also begin the development of the societies that would help to preserve Italian traditions and customs.  Thus, language, religion, the seasons and special foods were all interlinked and the church in the community became the vehicle for the continuation of cultural traditions whether individuals were religious or not. This was particularly so in Edmonton, where the priests not only helped to establish the Holy Rosary Women's Society and Youth Club but also the radio program, television program and a range of other gatherings.  The church hall was where clubs met and the church and hall grew and grew.  

The societies, over 40 of them in Edmonton alone, then, became the vehicles for preserving and interpreting customs and traditions.  For example, the National Congress of Italian-Canadians, Edmonton District, has organized the Italian pavilion at the annual Edmonton Heritage Days Festival.  As well, for a number of years, it contributed a small exhibit around Christmas traditions for the Provincial Museum of Alberta's multicultural Christmas showcase.  The presepio [nativity scene] was borrowed from the church and set up and the range of exotic foodstuffs including the torroni [nougat] were set out.  A fake fireplace had the image of the befana [the good witch who is the Santa Claus equivalent in Italian Christmas celebrations] on it.

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