Although Christmas is commonly viewed as a commercial holiday, for many families it is still a religious holiday steeped in tradition. This is especially true for the Italian-American population. In Italy, it is often said, Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi (Christmas with your family, Easter with whomever you wish). One of the many family traditions, alongside decorating the tree and attending midnight mass, is preparing seven types of fish dishes for the Christmas Eve meal.
The tradition of the seven fishes prepared for meals on Christmas Eve lends itself to a Central and Southern Italian tradition and is not prevalent in the Northern region. Some argue that this may be due to Southerners being a bit more superstitious than their Northern counterparts. Of course, you don’t have to look too far for an explanation of why fish is an obvious choice on Christmas Eve: Catholic rules prohibit the consumption of meat on Christmas Eve.
But, like many traditions, the Christmas Eve fish dish has many explanations. There are several arguments provided as to why there are seven fishes consumed, rather than say, six, or even ten. Some reasons are overtly religious: seven gifts of the Holy Spirit; seven sins: pride, envy, anger, gluttony, sloth, lust and greed; seven sacraments of the Church: baptism, penance, Holy Eucharist, Continue reading “A Christmas Eve Tradition”
San Martino, Umbria – Rural people baptized it l’albero del pane (“the bread tree”) for this tree grew on the mountains where wheat would not grow (and if elevation was also too high for olive trees, walnuts gave oil). The chestnut has starred in the culinary history of many civilizations and nowadays, highlights many a central Italy food festival.
To discover the apex of chestnut culinary creativity, don’t miss the mid-November Festa del Vino e delle Castagne (Wine and Chestnuts Festival) of San Martino in Colle, a minuscule castle-village near Perugia.
As you enter the village through the medieval arch, you’ll see red-cheeked Signor Agostino roasting chestnuts over an open fire. At a stand nearby, a volunteer sells il vino novello (new wine, i.e. of this year’s harvest). Chestnuts and wine are inextricably linked in central Italy’s rural culture. A much-loved saying, “San Martino, San Martino, castagne e vino” (“San Martino, San Martino, chestnuts and wine”) comes to life here in Umbria on November 11th, the feast of St. Martin, when rural families gather to inaugurate their new wine with roasted chestnuts.
Since the first days of language, humans have been passing on stories. From the sea shanties of Cornwall to the shadow puppetry of China, from the creation tales of Hula dancing to the drama of Caribbean calypso. Sicily is no different: its puppetry, dating back to Medieval times, is famous the world over for telling tales of knights in battle. But there’s another story too, the tradition of cuntu, dating back to Greek theatre and based on both sung verse and spoken prose. To discover its compelling history we have to go back to the ancient world.
Many modern cultures and languages can trace their origins to ancient ancestors, typically reaching back across decades, centuries and even millennia. European languages from Spanish to Portuguese, Romanian to English, for example, all owe a large debt of gratitude to the ancient Romans. Vulgar Latin forms the basis for several languages spoken by a sizeable proportion of the world’s population, not least of course Italians inhabiting the beautiful Mediterranean peninsula and beyond.
We only recently learned the sad news that long-time IFAFA member Victor Peck had passed away in March of this year (2017). Many of you will remember Victor and his constant companion, Vic Gugliuzza, as “the Victors” who attended IFAFA conferences from the 1990s through 2009.
Before his retirement in 1992, Victor Peck worked for the Nazarene Publishing House in Kansas City, MO, for 23 years. He was head of the Dock, overseeing the inventory and shipments. After both Victors had retired, they turned to their passion for folk dancing, teaching Dutch and Italian folk dancing at local community centers for decades. They enjoyed collecting music (records, tapes, and CDs), sheet music, and dances.
“The Victors” both loved dance of all kinds, but especially international folk dance which they had done for over 40 years. They had a special interest in Schottisches from various countries. Victor P and Vic G participated (and sometimes founded) several groups in Kansas City, MO, involved with dance and culture. They were members of the International Folk Dancers of Kansas City, UNICO, the Ethnic Festival board, and Scuola Vita Nova (a charter school where all students were exposed to the cultures, languages, and arts of numerous countries).
Since 1629, when the French influenced almost all European art forms, the most spectacular puppet presentations told of the Paladins of France and the villainous Saracens during the Crusades – filled with chivalry, love, hate, and terrible battles. The puppets themselves almost come alive! Made of padded wood, they’re dressed in authentic period costumes, including family colors and crest. Knights are well-equipped: from the helmet on the head, and iron breastplate, the sword in the right hand … the shield on the left arm. Only the King, the Ladies, and the Pages are without armor.
The Puparo (or puppet speaker) sets the stage for his audience: a mortal struggle between those hated Saracens and the virtuous Paladins. Our play begins:
ACT 1, scene 1: Gano, the brother-in-law of Charlemagne (King of France and Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire) makes a pact with the Saracens to betray his fellow countrymen.
ACT I, scene 2: Gano returns to Charlemagne’s camp and tells of the Saracens’ wish to be baptized as Christians. Orlando, the strongest and cleverest of all Paladins, does not believe this surprising turn-about from his enemies. Yet, preferring a brave death to a cowardly life, he leads his men to Continue reading “I Pupi Macrì Acireale (Puppet Theatre of Sicily)”
Even if you were not able to attend the workshop during the 2015 conference, you can partially share the experience through this handout which participants received. Workshop attendees followed a PowerPoint presentation on the history and production of bomboniere and then used a variety of materials to create bomboniere of their own.
— Jackie Capurro, San Jose, CA
Locations Mentioned during the Presentation
Sulmona: a city and comune of the province of L’Aquila in the Abruzzo region, east of Rome, the home of widely-known manufacturers of confetti
Museo dell’Arte e della Tecnologia Confettiere Pelino (Pelino Museum of Confetti Art and Technology) is located in the Pelino Factory in Sulmona and contains displays of the history and production of confetti. Website: <http://confettimariopelino.com/museo/>
Avola: a small town in Sicily, between Siracusa and Ragusa, known for growing high-quality almonds, perfectly shaped for confetti
Although Joe and Martha Trapani have not participated in IFAFA Conferences for a while, many of our members will remember this lovely couple from Amici Italiani in Rockford, IL. We’re sad to pass along the news that Martha passed away at the end of June, 2017.
Here is part of her obituary published in the Rockford Register Star from July 3 to July 6, 2017:
Martha Louise Trapani, 74, of Rockford passed away Thursday, June 29, 2017. She was born February 1, 1943, in Carbondale, IL, the daughter of Earl Tippy and Polly Ann Rogers. She spent her youth in both Central Illinois and Phoenix, AZ. She graduated from Sterling High School in 1960. After graduating from Cormer and Durand Beauty School, she moved to Continue reading “In Memoriam: Martha Trapani”
— by Carolyn Martino; Storyteller, Humorist, Educator, Inspirational Speaker
In Riccitello and Riccitella, the Italian version of Hansel and Gretel, the abandoned children find a cottage in the woods made, not of gingerbread (that’s German!), but one filled with sausages, ham, salami, bread, and cheese! That’s Italian!
That’s because folktales travel. The same tale is often found throughout Europe, the Americas, the Middle East, and Far East. But it was in Italy that many of these oral tales were first written down. The earliest versions of Puss in Boots, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, and many others were first recorded in writing in Italy. But, as the Tuscans say, “A tale is not beautiful unless something is added to it,” and Italian tales are definitely Italian! Continue reading “HAVE TALES . . . WILL TRAVEL”