I decided in this missive not to restate all the wonderful things so many, more talented than myself, have already said by now about the glory and wonder of Christmas, and the most blessed birth of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. Instead, I thought it might be more meaningful to share something very personal, namely, the memory of my own childhood Christmases. I do this because I believe that for many of us, these are among the most cherished of all our memories, and hold for each of us a profound significance.
I was a boomer, and the suburban world I grew up in in the ’50s was utterly traditional. I knew no one who was not a churchgoer, and families were largely nuclear and cohesive. The stores, restaurants and businesses were all closing, and all but essential services were shut down so that employees could go home early. As such, the world came to a virtual standstill by the afternoon of December 24th each year, as the celebration of Christmas officially commenced. All the decorations of exterior lights, indoor candles, wreaths and tree ornaments had been in place for several weeks, patiently setting the stage in advance for what was about to take place.
Presents under the tree that had been tantalizing us for so long were soon to be opened! The only thing that could distract us from them for just a few more hours was our traditional Christmas Eve meal. My mother, whose full name was Gloria Nina Carbone Iacoboni, always made her absolutely most delicious dish of the year: lasagna.
But not just any lasagna! I had helped her sift the flower and roll the dough for the homemade pasta the day before. Her exquisite Italian sauce, full of oregano and all the rest of her secret spices, had been simmering on the stove for 8 hours. Finally, it was ready to be delicately layered with the pasta and the authentic ricotta and the mozzarella and handmade Italian sausage, to prepare the lasagna “casserole” for the oven by noon. The aroma in the house was as intoxicating as any ambrosia, and we kids all sat spellbound, agonizingly anticipating the late afternoon feast, which was followed directly by an evening under the tree.
We split the gift-giving into two phases. Christmas morning was reserved for the larger, singular gifts that of course came from Santa during the night. I can honestly remember the time when I truly believed he actually was coming to make the delivery. But what I also remember was that the other gifts that we received, the ones that were under the tree for one to two weeks, which were given by friends and family members personally, were somehow even more special; better than anything Santa could ever bring. With my baby sister, two older brothers, mother and father all there together for that most blessed evening of food, gifts and, of course, prayers of thanks for His coming, I was instilled at a young age with the deepest possible joy and hope and love.
I vividly recall, and profoundly cherish, the magic of my childhood Christmas Eves. And that joy, hope and love stays with me to this day.
Merry Christmas to everyone! And may the joy, hope and love of His life with us on this earth be with you now, and also throughout the entire year!