Italian Cookies and Christmas Celebrations

Interviewer: Do you have any holiday celebrations that you do every year?


Informant: So for Christmas every year we start celebrating Christmas Eve.  We get a new set of pajamas that we wear to sleep on Christmas Eve but before we go to sleep we do games and visit with family. Each year our cousins from my dad’s side of the family go to our grandpa’s house and we play white elephant while we are there.  We also make special cookies known as Pizzelles which are traditional Italian sweets.


Interviewer: Who makes the cookies? And are the first gifts you get for Christmas, the pajamas that you get to wear on Christmas Eve?


Informant: My mom used to make the cookies and now we make the cookies together.  It is something we get to do together and a way to spend time with each other. And the pajamas are the only gift we get to open on Christmas besides whatever we get in the White Elephant game. We get to open the pajamas when we come home from our grandfather’s house.  So it is something you just do with my immediate family.


Interviewer: What do you do on Christmas Day?


Informant: We sleep in and then the first thing we do is open our stockings. My dad always puts scratchers in our stockings so we scratch those right away.  Then we all have our “assigned” seats in the family room and my brother and I separate the presents out and then we kind of open our presents in a circle so we see what we got. My grandfather also used to dress up like Santa Claus and come surprise us while we opened gifts.


Interviewer: How long have you been doing this? And are any of things you do, things that either of your parents did as they were growing up?


Informant: I have been doing it for as long as I can remember.  When my mom was growing up, her and her mom used to make Pizzelles for the holidays and we still use our neighbor’s recipe.  I say “our neighbor” because my mom grew up in the house that we live in now so she’s still our neighbor.


Interviewer:  Wow that’s really sweet that you still use that recipe.  What do they taste like?


Informant: They are like thin crisp cookie with a design on the front, but we have to use a Pizzelle iron to make them so it takes a while and it’s a big deal when they are done.  But we put anise and lemon in them and then we do a lemon glaze on top.


Interviewer: That sounds delicious.  Thanks for sharing.


Background:  The informant is a sophomore in college and studying communications.  She still lives at home while attending school and is very close with her family which consists of her parents and one older brother.  She is a great friend of the interviewer and is often baking or engaging in other crafts.  This piece was very special to her because it is ongoing and reminded her of the way she and her family has kept these various traditions alive.  Christmas is also her favorite holiday and something she looks forward to every year.


Context: This interview took place over the phone since it was not possible for the interviewer to see the informant in person and it was past Christmas so the interviewer was unable to be a part of the celebration.  The informant has been experiencing this holiday and these rituals for as long as she can remember and some were even passed down and experienced in similar ways by her mother as stated in the interview.


Analysis:  I found this piece to be really interesting because it is not often that you encounter someone who lives in the same house as their mother did when she was young.  I think the fact that the informant is able to recreate these traditions in a similar setting as when they were first started is really special for all involved and an important part of folklore.