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January 1, 2010     Post-Gazette
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.i ...... i ,h. g,.,/, gail,~...il.., .... g.iildL~lh .... L .........~..~- ........... -,. .............................. ~-. ............... POST-GAZETTE, JANUARY 1,2010 Page13 Fa/2na Babb' onno by John Christoforo A Nostalgic Remembrance My cousins, the Pepe Family -- Left to Right Back Row: Ralph, sons John, Ken and Steven. Middle Row: Angela, daughter Kristen, Dawn (John's wife with baby Vivian). Front Row: Evey, Brennan (John and Dawn's children). Sitting Zachery, Sharyn (Ken's wife with baby Noah), Kerry, Steven's wife. It was Christmas Day and I was a child. Santa had brought the electric trains I had asked him for and I was up at the crack of dawn assembling the tracks, con- necting the transformer and placing the wheels of the engine and cars in the right plac~ on the tracks. When I began operating the train, the noise awakened my folks, but they didn't mind, it was Christmas day. Not long after, Dad told me to get dressed. He was play- ing a Christmas party aboard the USS Vulcan, an aircraft repair ship that was sta- tioned in Boston. Each year since WWII ended, he and a few of his fellow musicians played on the ship for the crew and their families, most of whom were from this area. Santa would show up just as dessert was being served. I was told that he made the stop while he was on his way back to the North Pole. All the children of the sailors were happy about this fact and none of them were left out when Santa distributed presents. When we returned home, Nanna and my mother were busy preparing the Christ- mas dinner. The smell of the seven fishes from the night before was being replaced by the smell of Nanna's gravy and the meats that were being saut6ed in garlic and oil before they were placed in the gravy pot. Babbononno was setting up a table with bottles of wine, aperitifs, and what ever else had flavored alco- hol. These bottles were care- fully placed behind the dishes that contained the antipasti he would serve the family when they all arrived. As the afternoon rolled in, the family began arriv- ing and Christmas dinner became a reality. Uncle Paul, his wife, Aunt Eleanor showed up with their two daughters, my cousins, Paula and Ellie. Uncle Nick arrived alone. He had not yet married Aunt Dorothy. Uncle Gino and Aunt Ninna were the last of the imme- diate family to arrive. At this point, their children hadn't been born yet. Once we were all seated, Babbo- nonno toasted the holiday and Nanna served the first of the many courses that would keep us at the dinner table for several hours. Later in the day, a few of Nanna's relatives dropped by with their families and then a few paesani who always celebrated holidays with my grandparents. On this Christmas day and many more that followed, there were visits from friends of my grandparents who were alone in America. They -- FOR YOU WHO APPRECIATE THE FINEST-- THE MUSIC FOR ALL OCCASIONS WWW.BOSTONPOSTGAZETTE.COM 781-648-5678 were lonely and this was the closest to family that they could experience on an international holiday. Even as a child I wondered how lonely it might have been for these people if it had not been for my grandparents and their old fashion hospi- tality. My young mind deter- mined that the worst thing on a holiday as important as Christmas must be the feel- ing of loneliness. In my own youthful way, I considered myself quite lucky. Well, here we are many decade later and my cousin, Ralph Pepe, and I try to con- tinue the traditions we re- membered from our child- hood experiences. We com- bine families on holidays, Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving. His grand- father, Zi'Antonio Ceruolo and my grandmother (Nanna} were brother and sister, plus, my great uncle and Babbononno were the best of friends. They had, I believe, 1 1 children of their own, but always showed up even if it was just for a cup of coffee and dessert. Last Friday, my wife, Loretta, sons John and Michael, my wife's mother, Mary and I made the trek to Ralph and Angela's home to continue the family tradi- tion started two generations ago by our transplanted grandparents. We combined families for yet another holi- day. Before Ralph and Angela's children and grandchildren began arriving, Ralph and I were sitting in the kitch- en as Angela and their daughter, Kristen, set up the kitchen table with antipasti. Ralph and I began sipping the drinks he poured and both of us began reminisc- {Continued on Page 14) * The Socially Set {Continued from Page 9} Jen Mergel joins the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in February 2010 as the MFA's Beal Family Senior Curator of Contem- porary Art. (Photo courtesy of MFA) The two companies plan to maximize their vast re- sources in Massachusetts to deliver the best in-class ser- vice they are both known for. "We are perfectly posi- tioned to provide the BSO with an extraordinary food service program," said Joe O'Donnell, Chairman of Bos- ton Culinary Group. "Our management team and line- staff have been servicing the Boston cultural theater com- munity successfully for years at the Wang Center, the Shubert Theater and most recently, the Opera House. Our knowledge of the service patterns, the mar- ket and our strong presence in western Massachusetts make this a good fit for us. We've got a great partner, too." The management team of Gourmet Caterers is quite familiar with Symphony Hall. They have been pre- senting catered events there for decades. "I have been involved, in one form or another, with the BSO since 1973," said Bob Wiggins, President and Owner of Gourmet Caterers. "We were pleased to see that the BSO had decided to pair the Hall business with the Tanglewood business and appoint an exclusive pro- vider. We felt that was a smart move. Our team is eager to get in there and start building the business." Enjoy! (Be sure to visit Hilda Morrill's gardening Web site, www.bostongardens.com. In addition to events covered and reported by the columnist, "The Socially Set" is compiled from various other sources such as news and press re- leases, PRNewswire services, etc.) New Year Traditions (Continued from Page 8} In Scotland, the birthplace of "Auld Lang Syne" is also the home of Hogmanay, the rousing Scottish New Year's celebration (the origins of the name are obscure). One of the traditions is "first-foot- ing." Shortly after midnight on New Year's Eve, neighbors pay visits to each other and impart New Year's wishes. Traditionally, a gift of coal is brought for the fire; a gift of shortbread can also be given. It is consid- ered especially lucky if a tall, dark, and handsome man is the first to enter your house after the New Year is rung in, The most commonly sung song for English-speak- ers on New Year's Eve, "Auld Lang Syne", literally trans- lates as "old long since" means "times gone by." It is an old Scottish song that was first published by the poet Robert Burns in the 1796 edition of the book, Scots Musical Museum. In Italy thousands of people gather at churches and ca- thedrals to attend midnight mass and welcome the year ahead. This is considered to be one of the main New Year traditions in Italy. Thou- sands of people also attend at Vatican City. Another important ritual is to burn the Yule Log, which is lit all through the night till the coming of the New Year The New Year is the most important holiday in Japan, and is a symbol of renewal. In December, various Bonenkai or "forget-the-year parties" are held to bid fare- well to the problems and con- cerns of the past year and prepare for a new beginning. At midnight on Dec. 31, Bud- dhist temples strike their gongs 108 times, in an effort to expel 108 types of human weakness. The Spanish ritual on New Year's Eve is to eat twelve grapes at midnight. The tra- dition is meant to secure twelve happy months in the coming year. The Dutch burn bonfn-es of Christmas trees on the street and launch fireworks. The fires are meant to purge the old and welcome the new. In Greece, New Year's Day is also the Festival of St. Basil. One of the traditional foods served is Vassilopitta, or St. Basil's cake. A silver or gold coin is baked inside the cake. Whoever finds the coin in their piece of cake will be especially lucky dur- ing the coming year. Interestingly, kissing un- der the mistletoe is a New Year's custom in France, rather than a Christmas custom as in other coun- tries. In France, New Year's Eve is called la Saint- Sylvestre* and is usually celebrated with a feast, called le R~veillon de Saint- Sylvestre. The feast tends to include special items like champagne and foie gras, and the accompanying party. India is a country of great diversity. India is made up of numerous regional and cultural variations. As a result of these cultural variations, festivals are cel- ebrated at different times and in different ways accord- ing to regional culture. Noisemaking and fire- works on New Year's Eve is believed to have origi- nated in ancient times, when noise and fire were thought to dispel evil spirits and bring good luck. The Chinese are credited with inventing fireworks and use them to spectacular effect in their New Year celebrations.