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In case any of my friends or family members actually read this Blog, please consider all Names, Characters, Places and Incidents to be the product of the author's imagination and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales are entirely COINCIDENTAL...Muaaah!! Now, really, about me: I bring the crazy wherever I go, so I've been told...I make fun of myself more than anyone else ever could. I hate: the awkward silence in elevators, watches with no numbers, picky eaters, Cancer and legalism. I love: coffee, stalking Hugh Jackman, my Spanx, COMMENTS, sarcasm and writing: Middle Grade, NA, YA Paranormal and Urban Fantasy.

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Monday, February 18, 2013

Italian Family Traditions

Happy Monday! I hope everyone had a stellar weekend-I did. Although, I did not get any writing done, whatsoever. Instead, I  was too busy getting ready for Franchesca's 9th birthday party. Again. Yep, we had another 9th birthday celebration for my Franchesca on Saturday night.

Since my brother was traveling for work and some other members of the family were not able to make it to her indoor water park  extravaganza, we had another party for her at my sister's house. This may seem like overkill to most people, but in a large, close-knit, Italian family like mine, until every single one of you are available to sit down and eat cake together, your birthday is simply not considered "celebrated". Trust me, I've tried to skirt this tradition before and found the incessant phone calls and asking about "when are we having cake for .....?" will just not stop, until this ritual is performed. It's one of the things that I love (and hate) about my family. 

Let me explain. Growing up Italian, there are things that we simply accept as normal operating procedure that to any one else, would seem crazy. We take something as simple as meals, birthday celebrations and normal get togethers and turn them into monumental productions. We don't know how to do it any other way; it's just how we  roll. If  you invite twenty people over, you must make enough food to feed 100. Or else, God forbid, you might run out of food!?! That, my friends, is a cardinal sin. And the kind of embarrassment an Italian could never live down. No, it's always better to make way more than what you need, that way no one ever leaves your house hungry or empty handed.

An Italian house party, (if you've never been) is simply something I think everyone  must experience, at least once in their life. Allow me to recount the same speech I used to give to my "white" friends, whenever I was preparing them to come home and meet the family. (I'd been to most of their houses, and  didn't think it fair, to just throw them to the wolves like that, without any preparation of what to expect.)

Here's my list of Italian House Party Do and Don'ts:
(1) Know it will be loud.  At any given time, two or three people will be talking over each other, and at you, all at once. They will ask you non-stop, inappropriate, nosy-ass questions they don't really expect you to answer. If you feel you must answer them, then direct your answer to the oldest. That will be respected.
(2) Even in the dead of winter, that house will be HOT. Do not wear a sweater. Don't believe me? Fine, check the windows while you are walking up, they will be sweating just as much as you will be if you don't heed my warning. The heat can't be helped. The ovens have been on for at least two days and with that many people, it's impossible to keep the house cool.
(3) Prepare to be groped. You will be passed around, embraced and kissed incessantly. Just grin and bear it, it will all be over soon. Well, at least until you want to leave. Then it will start up all over again.
(4) If you are allergic to animals of any kind, make sure you take an allergy pill. Not only does the house you are entering have pets, at least two or three party goers will bring their own with. DO not attempt to pet anything without permission. Most of these animals have gone deaf or have lost their ability to bark, but all of them are taught to bite strangers.
(5) Do not eat or drink anything 24 hours prior to arrival. And whatever you do, whenever they ask, deny being hungry. You will thank me for this. Because no matter how many times you deny being hungry, the absurd amount of food and drinks that will still be pressed up on you from the time you arrive to the time you depart will leave you not wanting to even think about food for weeks afterwards.
(5)Wear soft, stretchy pants. This is for your comfort and safety. If you choose to wear jeans or a tight skirt, not only will you be ridiculously sorry and uncomfortable, you will be forced to open the top two buttons on those jeans and/or ditch the panty hose, in order to make it safely through to dessert.
(6) There WILL BE a cousin there who wants to "hook you up".  No matter how hard he tries to convince you what a great deal it is he's giving you, for the love of God, DO NOT buy anything from him. No matter how "sweet" he seems, know this, he is ripping you off.  If you go through with this sketchy transaction, it's on you. I warned you and will take zero responsibility when are whining to me about how the authorities confiscated your brand new merchandise as Exhibit A, since they were finally able to trace back whatever it is my cousin  jacked this time, back to you.

Oh, my list could go on and on. But no amount of warnings could fully prepare my friends for what they were about to witness, unless they saw it firsthand, for themselves. Even still, half of them didn't believe me. It wasn't  until my friends and I would be leaving, that they would start shaking their heads and shouting in disbelief (they would be shouting at me not because they were angry, but because their ears were still trying to recover from the dangerous noise levels they just endured, and like a concert, it leaves them temporarily deaf for a day or two)  "Oh my gawd Jen, I can't believe it.  I thought you were just exaggerating!"  But alas,  I was not.

Despite their initial reservations and feelings of being a fish out of water, they were only "strangers" once. It always amused me to see how my friends transformed themselves while hanging at my house. Their normal, uptight control thrown out the sweaty window, as they stuffed themselves to the gills with cheese and meat like a giant ravioli. How they started to anticipate and look forward to spending more and more time at my house for parties and holidays. I watched in awe as they learned to bribe the animals not to bite them anymore with little pieces of salami. It warmed my heart to see how they began to cherish and look forward to the hugs and kisses my family lavished on them. And man, it always killed me when out of nowhere, they would ditch their manners and insecurities and start shouting out their opinions, so they could be heard over every one else. My Aunts and Grandmother giving them a nod and  a wink, encouraging them on.

So, although the Italian house party is a loud, hot, over the top and monumental production, I find myself continuing these traditions I grew up with in my own home. Honestly, I wouldn't do it any other way. What are your family traditions like? Do you continue in the ways of your parents and theirs? Why or why not?

34 comments:

  1. Groping in a hot room might be just too much for me!
    Once I got married, my wife and I started some new traditions. Helped that we didn't live near our family though.

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    1. My shy timid friends are generally so overwhelmed with the food, noise and amount of people they were just introduced to, the first time they come over and "meet the family" it takes them a bit to adjust. Honestly though, no one does hospitality like my family and they will do everything in their power to make someone feel welcome- so even the shy ones, always come back. :)

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  2. LOL! Oh Jen, this made me laugh! I have a friend who is Spanish, and she has a similar list of family party dos and don'ts!

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    1. Oh, yes, I have Latino friends who jumped in and felt right at home up in my house. They told me they feel at home in the crazy. LOL

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  3. While not Italian, my wife's family is like this...and I love it. It sounds like you're very blessed to have that sort of family. :)

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    1. We are nuts Mark- completely bananas, but I love the heck out of my family. And we just don't know any other way-lol.

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  4. I love this! My husband makes fun of my family because whenever we get together or even talk on the phone, our conversation revolves around food. What did you guys eat there? Who made this or that? What are you eating? What are you going to have for such and such? And all my friends from home (including myself) post pictures of food all the time on FB. Haha. I'd love to come and 'observe' one of your family parties some time. I think it'd be a hoot! :)

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    1. Oh my gosh Ilima- it's all about the food. First question my mom will ask when we are planning a get together, "What are we doing?" And I know she's not talking about activities, I know she really means, what are we serving? LOL

      I think the reason my family loved Hawaii so much was because (unlike other places we have visited) we felt right at home! The Hawaiian people were not quiet, they celebrated kids, family, food, honored their tutus and welcomed us with great big, open arms. We loved that! I think Italians and Hawaiians have a lot in common that way :)

      And, oh my gosh, please know that you would ALWAYS be welcome in my crazy house, anytime!! Hmm, what would we eat? LOL

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  5. Love this post. Although not Italian, I was raised in Chicago and my mother's family is Polish; need I say more. While we eat periogi by the gallons, instead of ravioli, just about everything else is the same.

    Today, I live far from everyone, but one daughter and her family are here on island with me and I do my best to keep up the traditions. Wouldn't have it any other way. My son-in-law was shocked at first, but now he's starting to come around and enjoy the noise, food and whatever crowd we can muster.

    P.S. Looking for more of your WIP. Working on some to sent to you. SOON!

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    1. LOL, thanks! It sounds like you can certainly relate to my crazy family.

      I haven't been able to get that much revising done on my WIP- due to my kids having half days and The Husband having off. I don't get any thinking done when they are home, much less writing! They all go back to normal hours this week, so hopefully, I can get back at it in the next couple of days. I'm glad you are working on yours and look forward to getting some new chapters from you soon!

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  6. Oh, it sounds fabulous. And not so different from the Norwegian variety I grew up attending. My husband never HAS grasped why we'd get together for every single birthday party.

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    1. Thankfully, my husband (although not a fan of the noise) is a huge fan of the food and fun, so he puts up with all the chaos.

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  7. I can identify with everyone needing to eat cake with the birthday girl/boy. We somehow started a tradition with #1 son that family should share the cake - 13 years later we're still bending over backwards to make sure everyone can make the date/time! If two cakes are needed... well, that's just a great birthday!

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    1. Two cakes, is always better than one!! LOL

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  8. Interesting post. Thanks for the tips and I'll keep all this in mind. :) It all sounds lively as well as delicious.

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    1. Hey Medeia! It sounds a bit nutso, I know. But whenever I went to a friend's house that was an only child, I couldn't believe how all the calm and quiet of their homes, would weird me out. LOL

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  9. You should write that as a scene in a book. I could totally see it.

    My husband comes from a big family. Two of my kids love the energy of it. For one of my kids and me, it's terrifying. We like the quiet.

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    1. Hi Tonya! Thanks, I'm glad you said that because I already did. My WIP "Breaking Cardinale Rules" is about an Italian girl from the Jersey Shore with a crazy big family. I "borrowed" a lot of the character descriptions and dialogue, right from my own life at home. :)

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  10. I would love to come to your house for a party! I might be a little shy at first, but I would warm up :) And I can guarantee that I would eat more than my fair share, and feel sure I could win the pets over. So when's the next one??

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    1. You would only be shy for a minute before my family overwhelmed you with food, hugs and questions. They would also be sizing you up for my brother in a hot second! Hahahaha. Oh my gosh, the crazy pets we have!! I swear rescue pets and Italians are infamous. No one has a normal cat, dog or bird. They are all jacked up in some way or another and on top of that, they are completely attached to their owners, who spoil them freagging rotten. The more jacked up they are, the more we seem to love them, LOL

      And whenever you are up for it, you are welcome over here any time!

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  11. It sounds like a lot of fun. Those Italian get-togethers always looked like a blast on TV.

    My family is pretty quiet, and we don't get together as much as we used to.

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    1. Thanks! We don't know how to do quiet family get togethers. If there is ever a rare moment of quiet and somebody walks in they will immediately ask, "OK, who died?" LOL

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  12. It's reasons like this that it would be cool to be Italian. Alas, I have more Irish and Welch in me, but that means I can talk about Leprechauns without getting strange looks, right? :)

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    1. Ha! I have Irish in me too. (On my Dad's side) Believe it or not, they can get just as crazy and loud and there are lots of cousins on that side too.

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  13. In so many ways I feel like Jewish (my husband's family) and Italian are similar. The food, the family, the groping!

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    1. Oh my gosh Johanna, I totally agree- That's why my mom and my sister both have Jewish best friends. They spend all of the Christian holidays with us and we spend all Jewish holidays with them. We are truly one in the same!

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  14. Jen-I picked you as one of my "Favorite Things" commenters. See my blog post today for details. :)

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    1. You, my friend, are a ROCK STAR. Thank you!!!

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  15. We have no traditions. Somewhere along the line, somebody forgot to mention where their family came from countless branches on my paternal and maternal side.

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    1. Whaaat? No traditions? Oh my gosh my family would adopt you in a hot second! You would be an honorary Italian by the end of the day. :)

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  16. I know #6 all too well. Except, in a Mexican family it's that "they know a guy." And they aren't trying to rip you off, no, they're getting some poor schmuck who has no idea what he's doing to do it for the absolute bottom dollar, so it'll look like crap, but hey, it was half price, what do you expect?

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    1. Oh yeah- that's another good one. Us Italians always seem to "know a guy" who can do a job. Which is always cheaper but ends up being a total nightmare.

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  17. I cannot see how an occasion to eat cake is a bad thing. I very much think it isn't a proper birthday (or any celebration for that matter) without at least one cake.

    And reading your dos and don'ts of Italian house parties, I've decided they sound very much like Greek house parties at my Granddad's. Ah, wonderful memories. :D

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    1. Oh yeah- Greeks and Italians (especially Sicilians) are very close in proximity and attitude. :)

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