So again, I will be posting to this blog days 10 & 11 today and then I will taking some time after Christmas to take care of this family situation. My next blog post will be on January 12, 2016 a Tuesday and that means “Soupy Tuesday.” So please enjoy this blog post and be sure to mark it on your calendars to come back for January 12th, 2016. Merry Christmas and a Happy Healthy New Year to all!
Day 10 & 11, my countries are Italy and USA, America! “Buon Natale & Merry Christmas “
One of the most important ways of celebrating Christmas in the USA and in Italy is the Nativity crib scene. Using a crib to help tell the Christmas story was made very popular by St. Francis of Assisi in the year 1223. The previous year he had visited Bethlehem and saw where the stable, where it was thought that Jesus was born. A lot of Italian-American families have a Nativity crib in their homes. The city of Naples in Italy is world famous for its cribs and crib making.
These are known as 'Presepe Napoletano' (meaning Neapolitan Cribs). The first crib scene in Naples is thought to go back to 1025 and was in the Church of S. Maria del presepe (Saint Mary of the Crib), this was even before St. Francis of Assisi had made cribs very popular! Having cribs in your own home became popular in the 16th century and it's still popular today (before that only churches and monasteries had cribs). Cribs are traditionally put out on the 8th December. But the figure of the baby Jesus isn't put into the crib until the evening/night of December 24th! Naples is also the home to the largest crib scene in the world, which has over 600 objects on it!
In Italy an old Italian custom is that children go out Carol singing and playing songs on shepherds pipes, wearing shepherds sandals and hats. We in the USA do something similar and go Caroling from house to house, singing Christmas songs.
For many Italian-American families a big Christmas Eve meal of different fish dishes is now a very popular tradition! It's known as, “The Feast of the Seven Fishes.” ('Esta dei Sette Pesci' in Italian) The feast seems to have its root in southern Italy (Sicily) and was bought over to the USA by Italian immigrants in the 1800s. It now seems more popular in American than it is in Italy!
Santa Claus is called “Babbo Natale” in Italy. Some people say that Santa lives at the North Pole. In Finland, they say that he lives in the north part of their country called Lapland. But everyone agrees that he travels through the sky on a sledge that is pulled by reindeer, that he comes into houses down the chimney at night and places presents for the children in socks or bags by their beds, in front of the family Christmas tree, or by the fire place. In the early USA his name was 'Kris Kringle'. Later, Dutch settlers in the USA took the old stories of St. Nicholas with them and Kris Kringle became 'Sinterklaas' or as we now say 'Santa Claus'!
I love and enjoy cooking but baking is my favorite. I guess in my Italian family, I must have inherited the “baking gene.” I have learned so much from watching my mother and grandmothers when I was growing up. We had this wooden board, which was my great-grandmother’s. When the board was placed on the table, I felt like I was transported back in time, and I could see my great-grandmother Sofia rolling out the dough on her board. I have since inherited “the board” which I use to create my own traditions. I never had the pleasure of meeting her, she died when I was too little to remember, but I know that my sweet great-grandmother is right next to me and watching.
"Struffoli," is one of the most popular Italian sweets found on a dessert table for Christmas Eve. I remember the towers of Struffoli in my mother’s kitchen! I can just see my mom, my grandmother Julia, and my aunt Sophie making these sweet honey balls in the kitchen in our house. I am so grateful that I was there to learn and help make these fried goodies. These are reminiscent of mini éclair puffs drenched in honey! I hope that you try this recipe and make your own memories of this very sweet and traditional dessert.
2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
(plus a little extra to work with)
1/4 tsp of salt
2 cups of vegetable oil
2 cups of honey
1/2 cup of sugar
Place the flour in a large mixing bowl add the eggs and salt. Mix well then put on floured board and knead until smooth. Allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes. Roll the dough into 1/2 inch strips, and then cut the strips into tiny pieces 1/2 inch long. Shape these tiny pieces into balls by rolling them in your hand. Heat oil to 350°F. Drop the balls into the oil carefully a few at a time. Cook until lightly golden, turning them constantly with a wooden spoon, or a spider wand. Remove balls and drain them on a paper towel or use a clean brown paper bag.
Combine the honey and sugar in a saucepan and boil the mixture over low heat about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Now, add fried balls, 1 cup at a time, and coat in the honey syrup, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Remove the balls with a spider or slotted spoon and place on a flat plate to cool. Now you can shape you coated Struffoli into a tree or piled up high like a mountain. (A trick if you want to mold the coated honey balls into a wreath or tree shape, wet your hand slightly and that will help you mold the Struffoli easier. Your hands will not stick to the honey.) Then add confetti or sprinkles. They keep up to 2 weeks, if they last that long. Enjoy !
Till Next Time………………………….
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