Announcing a new series on Book Club Girl! All during the month of December I'll be hosting an Online Holiday Open House. I've invited your favorite authors to come on over for a visit and while they're here, to tell us about their favorite holiday traditions or memories. Today I'm thrilled to welcome New York Times bestselling author Adriana Trigiani, who has written about how she and her family celebrate the holidays. I just love what she's written and can just see her house, adorned in all its greenery, in my mind. As a Christmas junkie myself, I love her descriptions of the ornaments and all the special touches around the house.
Our family doesn’t just celebrate Christmas, we revel in it. We’re like Auntie Irma’s bourbon balls: the rich cocoa fudge center, chopped walnuts and sweet butter aren’t enough; as a final step, we drench them in confectioner’s sugar to give them a dusting of sugary snow in hopes for the real thing come Christmas Day. When it comes to the holidays, we can’t overdo the glitter, the greenery and the baking-our Joyous Noel philosophy is: enough isn’t enough-and too much is perfection!
When my mother and father moved our family (seven kids) from Pennsylvania to Big Stone Gap, we packed up our Italian traditions and headed south to the coal fields of southwest Virginia. It turns out Christmas was just as big in Virginia as it had been in our small Italian-American community in Pennsylvania. We began to blend our family traditions with the colorful local ones. The local clubs put on lavish Christmas shows, decorating our town’s historical homes and the museum with floral arrangements, opulent mantle decorations, and period Christmas trees from Victorian to contemporary country. When I think back, it wasn’t just our family celebration on Christmas Eve with our own Feast of the Fishes followed by Midnight Mass; it was a month-long party of concerts by the high school glee club and band, the town parade, and the judging of the best Holiday door decorations in town.
My husband and I carry this model into our family life. We don’t put pressure on ourselves to travel during December; rather we entertain our families throughout the month. It makes for a festive time of year - and takes the pressure off making one perfect day.
I emulate my mother’s style during the holidays. She used fresh greenery throughout the house, you couldn’t turn a corner without seeing a spray of polished holly leaves with ruby red berries, swags of fragrant pine and bunches of evergreen tied with ribbons and tucked in offbeat spots like the kindling basket next to the fireplace. I recreate the same ambience in our home. I decorate every door, front and back, in our New York home with a fresh evergreen wreath, which I decorate with antique ornaments, (my favorite: a red, white and green Italian glass bugle in honor of my grandfather Carlo (who played the horn!)).
The mantles are covered in fresh greens, and then I create villages with small houses, candles, and antique miniature trees I’ve collected. As a final touch, I staccato the mantle with antique books propped upon gold leafed plate stands. All the books have Christmas themes. I have quite a collection from yard sales and antique book malls: everything from A Christmas Carol with a gorgeous swirly cover to books that have personal meaning, including my father’s Christmas Golden Book from 1940—a real treasure.
Our New York tree is always big, loaded with ornaments old and new (I have an ornament of the American flag won by my grandmother at a bond rally in 1942), and lit like the tree at Rockefeller Center. We may be the only house in the United States that doesn’t have a problem with tangling lights. You see, my husband is the lighting designer for Late Show with David Letterman-and while I’m fussy about the menu, he is persnickety about the tree lights. They are stored, year to year, on cardboard flats with grooves so they don’t get tangled. Tim tests the lights on the flats before he even unwinds them. Then, he starts at the bottom of the tree at the base of trunk. He weaves the lights from the inside to the outer branches, working his way up the tree, but always from the trunk first. If a string happens to burn out-he can replace it-because he has layered the strings of lights just so. Tim also creates a blanket of lights on the lower branches to light the train that runs in a circle around the bottom of the tree.
For many years, when my husband and I were single, we’d go to our respective families for the holidays. I have so many stories of getting stuck - missing planes and spending hours brooding that I’m in an airport instead of with loved ones. So, when my husband and I married, we married on December 17th, a reminder that our holiday as a family would be our holiday. We didn’t want to spend it traveling. This is how our holiday open house came to be. We make sure during Christmas month that we see as much of our family as possible, but come Christmas week, we are in our own house, with our family. Our Christmas celebration is truly the sum total of our family traditions, with some new touches thrown in to keep it all fresh and real. My daughter Lucia is a Christmas junkie, just like her mom. Every light, every ornament, every guest, and every moment matters.
Adriana's novel Very Valentine will be out in paperback on January 5th, with bonus recipes and a sneak peek to the next book in the Valentine Roncalli series, Brava,Valentine, which is on sale February 2nd. You can become a fan of Adriana's on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.