Faith Family Food Heritage Holidays Tradition

The Ghosts of Christmas Past

I pray on Christmas
To do Your will each day
And I pray on Christmas
That I’ll be with You in Heaven some day

~Harry Connick Jr.

About a week ago while my husband and I were watching television, the following question was raised:

“If you could meet and follow a Christmas ghost, which one would you pick?”

As if on cue, we both had the same answer… in unison. “The ghost of Christmas Past.” We realized it was a kind of sad thought.

Christmas Past

While the Ghost of Christmas Past shows somewhat sad memories, I knew we were thinking the same thing. It would be to see the people who are no longer with us. The family and friends we miss everyday, but this time of year, we miss them a little bit more.

I think of Grandma’s pink bowl that she would only use to prepare Smelts on Christmas Eve. That smell would pretty much smack you in the face the moment you walked in the door. I think of the year my cousin Patty Boy surprised us by flying home from California for the holiday. I was able to sit beside him at dinner. I think of the kid’s table we’ve all been related to and how Uncle Sonny would always be willing to sit with us.

Glenn and me opening a gift our first Christmas married. (1994)

I remember heading to Midnight Mass with my high school friends and then going to the Arlington Diner for coffee afterward. Those same friends would often drop by during the day on Christmas.

I remember the days and days of food preparation that would take place. Stuffed calamari. Shrimp scampi. Linguini and clam sauce. Christmas Eve was the best meal of the year for me.

Then slowly. One by one. They began to “go home” to the Lord.

Christmas Present

Now, almost all of my family is gone. I don’t bother making many of the special dishes. It isn’t worth it for just me. If I come across baccala salad at a good Italian place, I’ll get a small container for myself. I’ll make deserts, but I’ve had to figure out how to make them for single digits now, instead of the usual 20-plus people serving size recipes that were written back when they were originally documented, instead of sharing them by word-of-mouth, generation to generation.

I still go to church. But I go alone. I light candles and pray for the souls of my loved ones that are gone. I pray for those who are still here. I pray for strength. It has been a hard year, but my husband and I are still here.

Christmas Future

What does the future hold? Only God knows. As the old saying goes, “you want to make God laugh? Tell Him your plans.” I have hopes and dreams, but they how play out is not up to me. I do know I need to keep pushing forward… but never forget where I came from.

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