The Christmas Chronicles, Part 1

By Mary Anna Violi |  @Mary Anna Violi

Cousin Chrissy's Christmas mantle decor -
Cousin Chrissy’s Christmas mantle decor –

We celebrated Christmas Eve differently this year. In the past our family has traveled to my brother’s home, two-and-three-quarter hours south of ours. Once there, we all put the finish gift-wrapping, and then set off for Christmas Eve Mass.  After a music-filled Mass, we return to my brother’s home for dinner.  After we kiss our children a goodnight, we prepare the Christmas stockings. Now that these children are in their ‘20’s, we the older adults sneak around filling all the stockings.

This year I proposed that instead of spending it with my brother’s family, we celebrate with our Uncle Sam’s family. Uncle Sam, my late father’s brother, will turn 95 in January. This year I thought it would be memorable to celebrate with his family.  We used to spend Christmas Eve with Uncle Sam’s family.  This tradition endured for years during my youth. Yet family traditions evolve:  Families add members, they lose members, and members move to other cities. Fortunately, my cousins welcomed celebrating together again.

Cousins: Chrissy and Anjelica at Chrissy's Christmas Eve Brunch  =
Cousins: Chrissy and Anjelica at Chrissy’s Christmas Eve Brunch =

We began at 10:00 a.m. on December 24 at Cousin Chrissy’s, where she hosted brunch. Playful holiday decorations filled each room of her jewel box of a house. The morning proved festive and filled with goodwill.  Brunch began with Mimosas, followed by coffee with shots of Amaretto. Chrissy made several tantalizing baked egg casseroles [one with sausage, one without], a baked cinnamon confection, a tasty fresh fruit salad, and decorated Christmas tree and star cookies.

Cousins Marianne and Steve's Christmas tree -
Cousins Marianne and Steve’s Christmas tree –

Later that evening we traveled across town to Cousin Marianne’s lovely home.  Chrissy is her daughter, and both of them had gone to great lengths to host memorable Christmas Eve celebrations.  At Marianne’s, there were tangy cheesy appetizers, pasta with hot peppers and anchovies [my personal favorite], another spaghetti dish with far less heat in both the red sauce and in the pasta, and meatballs.  We had mixed drinks prior to dinner, wine with dinner, Grasshoppers after dinner, a cream pie, and white cake. Another delicious meal with family rounded out a joyous Christmas Eve.  The best part though, was the conversation, the laughter, and happiness of simply being with my daughter, our Uncle Sam and cousins. In this way, we count our blessings instead of sheep.

Buon Natale!


“‘Twas the Night Before Christmas…”

Our friends' blue and silver Christmas tree -
Our friends’ blue and silver Christmas tree –


As we drove south on Christmas Eve, patches of snow dappled the landscape.  In the northern most part of our state, there was snow.  I have driven through plenty of treacherous winters to go “over the river and through the wood” in order to reach family for Christmas.  A reprieve from our snowy, icy Christmases was indeed welcome.

After attending Mass on Christmas Eve, we drank and toasted over a delicious dinner prepared by my niece Lauren’s fiancé’s family.  Justin’s family hails from Vermont, although both parents are of French-Canadian ancestry.  This is critical knowledge because it affected the Christmas Eve dinner in a good way.  The hors’d’oevre were sublime, mostly because I am a seafood aficionado and the sea scallops wrapped in bacon were done to perfection.  The sharp white Vermont cheese was a taste sensation too.  Summer sausage [ironic, I thought, for a December repast], deviled eggs, foie gras, and Brie en croute with mango chutney, fruitcake, and toasted seasoned walnuts rounded out the nibbles.

English: Photograph of a Bûche de Noël, by And...
English: Photograph of a Bûche de Noël, by Andrew Pendleton (, released by the photographer under the Creative Commons ShareAlike 2.5 license. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The main event then appeared, or rather I should say, main events.  Specially ordered maple-cured ham, two meat pies [one made with pork, light on the potatoes, and heavenly spices; the other with beef, heavy on the potatoes]; mashed potatoes [can there ever be enough potatoes?], sweet potatoes [ditto], white beans with maple syrup and bacon, squash, red beets, salad with feta cheese, and another salad made with shredded cabbage and fruit.  We wined and dined near the blue and silver decorated Christmas tree.  An impressive Buche de Noël the finale of a meal most different from an Italian one on Christmas Eve. However, the good fellowship and a willingness to partake of another family’s traditions made for a memorable dining experience.

Ciao for now.