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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
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"
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.
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.
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.