December is a month of joy. Joy brought about by the promise of the Christmas season and all that it involves.
Carols wafting over the house as we decorate the Christmas tree, prepare special foods and bake traditional treats.
But this time also brings sadness as loved ones pass away suddenly or just remembering the people in our lives that are no longer with us.
I find December to be a time of reflection, a bit of brooding over memories and regret over what I think I could have done better in my life.
This month is always so very busy with events, when the children were young it was school and church concerts, dinners with friends and family and work parties.
Today it’s filled with community events, work and preparing for Christmas dinner for my family.
I keep the tradition of the southern Italian Christmas Eve fish meal consisting of dried salt codfish baked with potatoes and onions and also rolled in a coating of flower and breadcrumbs and then fried, a clam sauce served with linguini pasta, and many green vegetables both cooked and fresh. Sometimes I will cook prawns, stir fry savoy cabbage in lots of olive oil and garlic, deep fry cauliflower, steam broccoli, as well as green salad, a tomato and green pepper one and stir fried coloured peppers.
I try to recreate the flavours of my mother’s cooking because then I can almost feel her presence.
Christmas Eve was most important when I was a child in Italy. Thirteen dishes were cooked to signify Jesus and his twelve apostles at the last supper. The food was left out so that if someone came by they could partake of the feast.
Sweet treats such as the pitta, thin layers of dough filled with almonds, raisins and walnuts drenched with honey, turdilli- round balls of dough deep fried, scalines, braids of sweet dough fried and covered in honey, mustazuolo, a honey loaf filled with chocolate and almonds and of course bowls of mixed nuts and fruits were also served.
After dinner everyone headed out to the town piazza to stand around the huge bonfire before entering the church for midnight mass.
In Fernie there was no bonfire but the meals were the same and friends would come over and everyone would sing and eat. We went to midnight mass and sang in the choir and loved it when people called out Merry Christmas as they shook hands and hugged.
A prime surprise to those lucky enough to live to be considered seniors is how quickly time flies by.
When young there isn’t much thought to being older. Yes, when a friend passes unexpectedly you think of how we need to appreciate life more, but in a day or two those thoughts are forgotten in the busyness of work and kids and other activities.
I read somewhere that “youth is wasted on the young”. Whoever wrote that understood what it meant. When young there is no time to think about being young, we think about what we want or need. We look at what our friends are doing; we worry about not having the right clothes, the right toys or the right friends. We look at material things and think of how to acquire them. There is no time to appreciate the subtler and more simple things such as life itself. We’re too busy with our ambitions, we want to be admired for what we perceive to be important, being considered smart, beautiful and maybe, just maybe a touch better than the next person.
Most people spend their lives searching for something, they think it’s achievement, appearance, or money.
In reality all of us are searching for acceptance and love. We do that in different ways and sometimes we spend our lives trying so very hard and not even noticing when it has been achieved because we’ve become too busy to notice.
I want to say to each one of you reading this to look into your heart and notice how much you are loved by family and friends. How truly appreciated for being just who you are, you don’t have to be someone better or smarter or thinner, or making more money, you just have to be you, the person born in this world at the right time for the right reason. You are meant to be here perfect in who you are. You are important to us, to your family and friends, to your work, to your community and most important to yourself.
Merry Christmas to you, Happy Holidays–May the Universe provide you with a Blessed and Most Happy and Prosperous New Year and the knowledge that you are loved and perfect because you are You.