Tag Archives: Christmas

Christmas/Holiday Traditions

Growing up in the 60’s, times were different. We didn’t have the Internet, Facebook, or any social media, so staying in touch with people who lived far away was usually done during the holiday season with the sending of the yearly Christmas card. Nowadays, we can keep in touch with relatives and friends a dozen times zones away much easier – and for no postage costs! People still do, though, send out holiday greeting cards, a custom that was started around 1843 by a civil servant in England called Henry Cole. He and his friend John Horsley designed the very first cards and sold them for a shilling each. As the quality of printing improved and people earned more money for “extravagant” items, Christmas cards became more popular. Again, back before the cyberuniverse ruled the world, the postal service did the majority of its delivering during two holidays every year – Christmas and Mother’s day.

I’m going to be honest and tell you I haven’t sent out holiday cards in years. The people I want to keep in touch with, I do, all year round. Facebook has made it possible to connect and keep up with people much more easily than ever before. I simply don’t have the time or the inclination to sit down and send a card to someone I spoke with yesterday! IF that’s a little Scrooge-y, okay. I’ll own that.

 

Another thing that was different when I was growing up was the Christmas tree and the ornaments we decorated it with. I don’t have one memory that isn’t filled with the tree being filled with those awful and cheap glass ornaments in a variety of colors. they were horrendously made and produced — I feel — simply to shatter. Truly. If you walked near the tree a ball would fall to the floor no matter how well you’d secured it, and shatter into ten thousand shards of glass that was almost impossible to completely sweep or vacuum up. I distinctly remember walking in my living room when I was eight in July and getting my foot pierced by the sharp remnants of a fallen, broken ball. The very first decorations put on trees when they became popular in the 18th century was apples, oranges, and -God Help me!– lit candles. Hallmark began producing specialized ornaments during the 20th century to depict all manner of thing and today, most homes in America that put up a tree, have at least one Hallmark-inspired or made ornament. I’ve been honest on my Instagram account and share pictures of the 4 trees I have in my home. Almost all of my ornaments – except for the tree filled with ornaments from the countries I’ve traveled to – are Hallmark ornaments.

 

Do you put a candle in your window during the Christmas season ( or one in each window!!)?

This tradition means different things to people of different faiths. Christians liken a lit candle to the Star of Bethlehem, guiding the wise men to the manger. The lights from a Menorah symbolize the miracle of Chanukah when a single jug of oil burned for 8 solid days. Irish Catholics used to put candles in the window to denote that the house was safe for Priests to enter during the Protestant uprising when Priests were in danger of being put to death. I like candles in the window because to me they symbolize that the way home will always be lit for whoever wants to journey there. The Alabama song Candle in the Window exemplifies this thought.

There are so many traditions that people hold fast to during the holiday season. I think that’s what makes our shared humanity so wonderful. Different cultures and diverse religions bring many things to the table. WOuldn’t it be nice if we could all respect, honor, and enjoy one anothers traditions?
So ( you knew this was coming!) what are some of your favorite Holiday traditions. I’m going to pick one person who comments and send them an ecopy of my Christmas book A KISS UNDER THE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS. So….talk to me.

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The San Valentino family…

My very first Christmas Romance Book, A KISS UNDER THE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS  has just hit the proverbial shelves and I am over the moon! I love love love the San Valentino family and am so happy I could tell Gia’s story in time to share for the holidays. Her sister Chloe’s story was told in the Valentines Day Candy Hearts book, 3 WISHES, and ever since then I’ve been dying to give Gia her own happily ever after story.
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Like the San Valentino’s, I was raised in a large Italian/American family.  I need to put a disclaimer in here: I am 100% Irish. My parents divorced and my step-father was of Italian heritage, so it was his large family I grew up in. Many of the traditions and family experiences I write about in A Kiss… I actually experienced  through interacting with my step-family. The difference between my book’s stories and my real life is varied, but let’s just say the San Valentino clan are a lot more loving than the family I grew up with. A lot more.

The San Valentino’s revere family. To them, it is first, last and always. From the way the entire family gathers every Sunday after Mass to eat, to the way they each weave and inveigle their way into each other’s lives and “businesses”, this is a family that would do anything for one another. And when I say anything, believe me. I mean it. From getting you that sold-out, unattainable , everyone’s gotta have it this year Christmas toy, to helping you remove a business associate who’s become a pain in the neck. And when I say remove I mean it in the truest sense of the word – you never saw or heard from them again!

The San Valentino’s are true loyalists with matriarch Nonna Constanza leading the family and keeping the old country traditions alive. They never leave the house without first kissing the picture of the current smiling Pontiff on the wall next to the front door. They cook everything from scratch. You will never see a processed food box, or a commercial jar of sauce or gravy in their cupboards. Mama and Nonna even bake the bread the family enjoys every day at every meal. Natural produce, farm grown vegetables and meats from a traditional butcher are the only food allowed to be served in their home. The one concession they give is to dessert, which they purchase from 95 year old Pappa Pontevecchio, who’s owned Pontevecchio’s Bakery for over 65 years. Even Nonna admits his pizzelle are so much more flavorful than her own.

Gia, as the baby in the family – a term she will forever be known as even though she is 24 – wants a life of her own with a man who loves her and bambini she can spoil. Her family wants this for her too, but they go about introducing her to the kind of men a 21st century woman runs in the other direction from: no-neck wise guy wannabes with old world thoughts on wives – namely the pregnant and barefoot kind! Gia loves her family, but wants a man who will see her as an equal in every way. When she meets Tim Santini, a man who seems to fit her fantasy in every way, a misunderstanding has her thinking he’s something other than the man of her dreams. Their story is the basis for A KISS UNDER THE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS.

I hope you enjoy reading about the San Valentino family as much as I did writing about them.

When  I’m not writing, you can find me here: Tweet Me//Read Me// Visit Me// Picture Me//Pin Me//Friend Me//Google+Me//

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RELEASE DAY!!

I think it’s a little serendipitous that today is the last day of NaNoWriMo and the day my newest book gets released into the world from my publisher.

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A KISS UNDER THE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS is here! I’ve been waiting for sosososo long to share Gia and Tim’s story. I’ve read it so many times over the past few months, waiting, just waiting until it could be released as a holiday novel that I’ve got pages of it memorized!! The San Valentino family is one I’d like to call my own for so many reasons. They laugh loudly, live broadly, and love unconditionally. Who wouldn’t want to be a member of such a clan??!!

SO if you like romance/love stories centering around family and you need a little comedic break during these busy holidays, you’ll love this story.

Here’s a little sumthin’ sumthin to whet your book reading appetites. Since I never had a sister to share with and learn from, I created sisters who mean the world to one another, Chloe and Gia:

Excerpt:

Sometimes living in such a close-knit family was a little suffocating and lot of claustrophobic.

How to be a good Italian, lesson 3: family comes first, last, forever, and you do everything together. Always.

“Gia,” Chloe said, breaking into my thoughts, “come and help me with your goddaughter. She needs to be changed.”

She rose, as did I, and grabbed the diaper bag sitting in the living room with one hand, her other hand holding her two-month-old. “Lorenzo, be a good boy for Nonna and Papa,” she told her two-year-old son with a kiss to his head.

Up in Gianni and Paolo’s old bedroom, which now served as an all-things-bambino warehouse, Chloe held the baby up to me and said, “Here. You do the honors.” Once she handed her over, she plopped down into the rocking chair Mama had rocked all six of us in and let out a sigh that tugged at my heart.

I laid Arianna down on the changing table Nonna had brought over from Italy with her seventy-five years ago and tickled her little belly. Her toothless grin stared up at me. She was already a heartbreaker and owned my own heart and soul completely.

“Okay, baby sister.” Chloe folded her hands across her stomach. “Spill. What’s up?”

“What do you mean?” I popped open the crotch of the onesie, pushed it up to Arianna’s tiny waist, and bent down to kiss her soft, swollen, little baby belly.

“Your face went the color of Mama’s tomatoes when they started discussing the new priest. What gives?”

Chloe is nine years older than I am and one of the smartest women I know. At times she’s been more of a mother to me than our own, like during the horrible two years Mama went through chemo treatments for breast cancer when I was eleven. Chloe was the one who helped me buy my first bra, taught me about my period, and listened to me when I had questions about boys, sex, and what constituted appropriate dating behavior for girls who came from families like ours: overprotected.

BUY LINKS: Amazon// Wild Rose Press//  B&N

 

 

 

 

 

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4 more days…

Christmas is this week and, as usual, I am in a moody funk. Growing up, most of my Christmas days were spent being shuffled from one parent to another and then on to my Irish grandmother’s house for what came to be known to me as the twelfth circle of hell.  My mother was the middle of three girls, the oldest had died when I was a baby and the youngest was grandma’s absolute favorite. As was her daughter, my cousin. My mother and I were barely tolerated. We were only invited to her home simply because Irish Catholic guilt won over my grandmother each year and she didn’t want to be seen by the neighbors and those who knew her as “neglectful” of her family.

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So dumb.

The yearly torture would start on Christmas Eve when we would trek to my stepfather’s large Italian family for La Vigil. As the baby in his family, my stepfather was warmly welcomed and much loved. Not so much my mother and I. We were the ultimate interlopers, despised by his mother who never spoke in English when we were around so we wouldn’t know what she was saying about us. After taking 7 years of Italian in middle school and high, she stopped doing that when I translated then repeated  everything she’d just said about my mother’s outfit to the dinner table.

Score one for the fat Irish kid.

We’d sit through the seven courses of various fish prepared by my stepfather’s sister and mother and then we’d open gifts. My mother and I were routinely forgotten even though we’d brought presents for all of them – the dozens of children included. As a child I’d watch kid after kid open a  cool toy or get a great outfit to wear while I just sat there  ignored, jealous,  sad, presentless.

They were not the nicest people on the planet.  Not even close.

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On Christmas day I’d wake up and after a morning shipped off to my father and stepmother,( who by the way was a lovely person – my father so did not deserve her) I was brought back to my mother and stepfather and then – because neither one of them drove a car, we’d run to the bus stop so we wouldn’t miss it ( buses only ran every hour on the holiday), get to the ferry and  wait to take that ( ferries also only ran every hour and somehow they were never timed with buses.) Off the ferry and then two long subway rides and a half mile walk to grandma’s fourth-floor walkup apartment. And when I say walk up, I mean it. No elevator.

By now it would be about three-thirty and the drinking would be in full swing, having started at the noon hour. Something would always cause an argument between my mother and hers, which many times ensued in the three of us leaving before dinner was served, or in the police being summoned by a neighbor who’d heard the shouting. Sometimes, we’d actually make it to dinner and presents before a blow-up would start.

I’m telling you this because I’m trying to explain why the holiday season has never been fun for me and why, when I write about families  now, I always depict them as being loving, accepting, and actually liking one another.

It was the opposite way I grew up, you see. Every year I asked Santa  for siblings to share with, parents who loved me, grandparents who spoiled me and a socio-economic situation that did not include the cops knowing our phone number  by sight when it was dialed into the police station. When these things didn’t materialize under the tree – or in my life – I imagined them. The families in my imagination were warm, funny, sweet and sober. Tables didn’t get flipped in anger, food didn’t get tossed at a crying child and the police dealt with real criminals.

These families lingered in my mind until I started committing them to paper and into my novels, where they bring me joy.

So.

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My grandmothers – Irish and Step-Italian – are long dead, and I have no contact with their families any longer. It was a mutual divorce on both our counts. I have my own wonderful family to spend the holiday with now, and am finally able to spend Christmas the way I’ve always wanted: with a happy, warm, loving and accepting group of people.

I hope your holidays are spent this way as well.

Peace. Love. Joy, and A Very Merry Christmas from me to you.

And here’s a little sumthin’ sumthin’ coming on the next major holiday : VALENTINE’S DAY: The CandyHearts Series. Click and see all the covers starting on January 4, 2016. And here’s a little hint – mine is releasing on 2/8/16. Enjoy.

 

 

 

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History and Tradition

Christmas is tomorrow -but you already know that. As a writer, I got to thinking about all the traditions that have been passed down to families over the ages, and all the history behind those traditions. The first storytellers – which is what we as writers are, didn’t have access to laptops, pens or paper. They told and retold their stories and their history to others, over campfires, in caves, huts, and lean-to’s. Year after year, decade after decade, until the stories were able to be recorded for prosperity and for times to come. I tend to think we still do this to this day – the proof is in the number of people who scrapbook – myself included. The recording our of our personal history is shown through practices such as this. I actually have a scrapbook for every year of my daughter’s life until she graduated from college. And each one is full of her own history, which she will be able to look back on some day and teach her children about it.

It’s the same way with Christmas traditions. Most of us still practice things we learned and did as children with our parents and grandparents. My husband’s family always played Hide the Baby Jesus figurine. All the kids were encouraged to search until someone – the ultimate winner- finally did. My friend’s moms had yearly cookie swaps. It was an occasion for the gals to get together, share cookie recipes and swap stores about their year. Many families make  trips into the woods ( or a tree farm!) to choose, tag, and then cut down their Christmas tree.  The telling of the Night Before Christmas on Christmas eve is always a favorite. Some families allow the kids to open just one present on Christmas eve, or their stockings, in anticipation of the day to come.

I have friends who never miss Midnight Mass. The next morning they have a huge Christmas Stratta for breakfast and invite neighbors to come over and share it.

I don’t have a Christmas childhood memory that doesn’t include two things every year in my memory: the Yule log burning on Channel 13 in NYC all of the eve and into the day of Christmas with every single holiday song ever recorded playing in a loop; and Christmas day making the schlep into Brooklyn to see my grandmother. I say schlep because my parents didn’t drive and we had to rely on public transportation. It took upwards of 4-5 hours ONE WAY every year, but we did it. That was our tradition. Christmas at grandma’s house in Brooklyn.

When I got older and was a single girl living in my own apartment my tradition became decorating the tree on Christmas eve. I’d put it up  a few days beforehand, let the branches settle and then play holiday music while I trimmed my tree. I still have many of those original ornaments 35 years later.

When my daughter was born, it became our tradition of have her put the angel on the top of the tree. Her father would lift her up so she could reach the top, I would snap the yearly picture denoting the event, and then the tree was set. Oh, and we always played Hide The baby Jesus, too!

So, as we reflect on the miracle of Christmas this year, don’t forget all the Christmas days that have come before this one.  Remember those things that made you happy as a child and share them with your own children. Don’t lose the simple things to the modern age.  Nothing gives you as warm a feeling as sitting by a roaring fire, the tree decorated with ornamental memories, a mug of hot chocolate in one hand, a child on your lap, as you tell them a Christmas story. Why don’t you tell them Your Christmas story?

And one day, they’ll pass that on to their own children.

History and tradition. Two halves of the same coin.

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