Christmas Growing up:
During this time of year I think about my Mae and Avo and how much they love Christmas. They loved preparing the house with decorations and putting up the nativity scene. The house was always filled with smells of good foods cooking and sweets being made for gifts for all the families in our family. Mae would make homemade jams out of peaches, grapes and strawberries, cookies, candies, and sweet rice! Pai would make some whiskey and wines with his brothers while playing dominos and cards. Avo was always happy to be preparing the Christmas gifts for all her grandkids.
It was tradition in our house to all get together on Christmas Eve and go to midnight mass. Only in a Portuguese house do young kids have to go to church at midnight. Before going to church everyone came over to our house and brought all their gifts. The whole family would gather around the nativity and sing songs in preparation for the holy night. I loved it when they sang Gloria in Excellus Dao and to this day I remember how to sing it in Latin like they did. My Tio Joe would accompany the women singing with his accordion playing. After midnight mass we all gathered again and were allowed to open a few presents. If the parents had too much whiskey in their eggnog we were sometimes allowed to open all of the gifts! They would get happy and after all it was Christmas and we should festa!
Christmas Day rotated each year from Avo's house to one of my Tia's houses. We would open more presents and would eat all the wonderful foods they took days to prepare. They would spend hours upon hours of telling stories about the old country and telling jokes! I can remember the laughter and joy in the house and how loved we all were.
To this day, Christmas to me is a feeling in my heart and soul because I was brought up with the Portuguese Catholic traditions. Yes we had all the decorations, music, presents but nothing comes close to the wonderful memories that were made by being all together with my family during that time of the year.
May you have a joyful Christmas and make memories for years to come, from our family to yours!