Merry Christmas, Buon Natale! With one month to Christmas Day, it’s time for the gift giving to begin.
Last year for the Christmas season I featured two classic holiday recipes on the blog: colluri and turdilli. This year more recipes are on their way, but I wanted to offer you, my readers, a special gift.
So here’s my holiday “thank you” to all of you that visit, read and share An Italian-Canadian Life. I’ve created three unique Italian ecards that you can send to your nearest and dearest, giving them a “taste” of the best of Italian Christmas foods. Send an ecard now
All Italians receive at least one or two panettones at Christmas (it’s a sweet cake-like bread). So now, you can send one virtually too! Maybe you’ll send it to someone you won’t be able to see this year, or send it to someone who hates getting their fourth or fifth panettone – just for fun.
You can also send my favourite holiday food gift of all: a virtual cookie tray. Complete with amaretti cookies, peach pastries and cornetti, everyone loves getting a traditional Italian cookie tray to munch on through the season.
So Merry Christmas/Buon Natale readers! Share the Italian foodie love!
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What does it mean to be Italian in North America? Today An Italian-Canadian Life welcomes a guest post by Amy Di Nardo, a university student studying nursing in Toronto, who hopes to work in the gerontology field. She loves garlic, kitchen-floor dances, and espresso. (I can’t say I blame her…)
The neighborhood I currently live in Toronto (Downsview) is very diverse. If I go for a walk on a Saturday afternoon, it excites me to hear different languages — whether it be Yiddish, Italian or Russian being spoken at different intersections. At a nearby park, I see young children playing on the swings, while a group of elderly ladies walk by, deep in conversation.
I have lived in Toronto for just about two years and it was a huge transition. I found that it took a great deal of time to adjust to the the rhythm of a large city. In my hometown of Sault Ste. Marie, I grew up in an Italian bubble. The city contains a very large Italian population relative to its size and due to its isolation from other major cities (nine hour drive to Toronto), a unique culture was created that lives and thrives within the community.
The ways in which ethnic communities interact, both internally and externally to other groups, seems very different in small versus metropolitan centres.
It didn’t take me much time to find an Italian presence in Toronto. The first experience I had was going to College Street for the Tarantella Festival. The street was closed off for dancing, musicians, vendors and artists such as Mimmo Cavallaro and Rionne Junno. I wouldn’t expect this sort of large-scale event to come to Sault Ste. Marie.
After this event, I was introduced to the popular GTA magazine, PanoramItalia, and the newspaper Lo Specchio. There were profiles, articles, events, language classes — everything you can think of! I quickly realized how organized and vastly different the Toronto Italian community is from Sault Ste. Marie — however, I still cannot put my finger on the exact variances.
Jerry Buccilli joins us for his fourth guest post with An Italian-Canadian Life. We love his writing, memories and recipes and this is another great addition. Thanks Jerry!
My Dad will be celebrating his 80th birthday this May. He’s had a good, long and colorful life. Sometimes there were dark periods (as when mom passed away) but for the most part no regrets. Since his children began having children of their own we all began calling him “nonno”….even his own children. He’s proud of this reference and often says that his best accomplishment in life was to raise his family.
As with most Italian men of his generation he’s also incredibly proud of his garden. As far back as my memory takes me I remember my father working in the garden during the long summer months. He’d work there so much that we often had lunch outside so he could quickly return to his “work.” There’d always be something to do: a tomato plant to tie so it wouldn’t fall over; zucchini to pick; herbs to cut, trim and hang up; watering, shoveling, cleaning, etc….There was always something.
Sometimes, when the garden was in full bloom and it was having a good year he would whistle or even sing. My mom would be sitting a few feet away near the patio and she’d ask him to sing to her. At first he would hesitate but then he’d begin to belt out some old tune and mom would smile.
Life was good. He was always the happiest in his garden with his wife by his side.
Often I would sit with him in the middle of the garden and we would talk. My father would tell me stories from his youth. Or his days in Venezuela when he and his father and brother travelled across the Atlantic to find work when WWII left Italy in economic upheaval and work were scarce.
A few weeks ago, the sun was bright in the sky and the clouds were moving swiftly past. Walking through a festival, I saw fingers in the crowd pointing upward and I had to squint to see what the commotion was. There, at the top of a very tall pole, a prosciutto was swaying in the breeze. It’s one of the stranger things I’ve seen, but for Guelph, Ontario, it’s a yearly occurrence.
Naturally for Italians, food is often a central part of celebrations. The annual Italian Festival in Guelph takes on two age-old Italian festa traditions featuring food: the Grease Pole Climb and Cheese Rolling. (I would also suggest it has a third – eat as much good food as you can!) Guelph is a perfect place to take in these events. Many Italians settled in this city and it’s said that even the name is a form of the Italian word “Guelfo.” Guelph is also a “sister city” with Provincia di Treviso, Italy.
My mother remembers the grease pole competitions in Italy as a child, happening when there was festas around a Saint’s Day or religious holiday. As the name suggests, competitors attempt to reach the top of a greased pole to win a prize. In Italy, a pole was erected in the town piazza and prizes of various foods were hung from the top. My mom recalls that the pole was not as greasy as the one here in Guelph and the wheel at the top holding the prizes also turned. So, once a competitor got to the top, grabbing a hold of the hanging meat or cheese was difficult.
Everyone needs a little music in their week, so today I have a music video to share! Nothing is better for experiencing Italian culture in Canada than attending the various picnics, festivals and events that happen all summer. Recently, I attended the Ajax-Pickering Italian Social Club picnic which, besides being a gathering of the community, hosted Coro Italia – a local Italian folk singing group. The idle picnic chatter and raucous bocci games were punctuated by this large group of dedicated singers and musicians that sang familiar and traditional songs to om-pah beats and the whine of not one, but two accordions. I admire most the great passion Coro Italia has for keeping these songs alive.
For one special song, a few of the singers became dancers performing traditionally with water jugs on their heads. It’s not a sight that is seen often, and is a great reminder of Italian traditions and culture which followed so many Italians to North America. I talk a lot about food and culture here and song is a big part of Italian life too. Enjoy the sights and sounds of Coro Italia:
A few more pictures from the picnic after the jump…
Today we welcome a guest writer, Cassandra D’Amico-Mazza, who, in honour of Italian Heritage Month, brings us the great story of her family’s celebration of 50 years in Canada. Cassandra D’Amico-Mazza was born and raised in Montreal and is currently a film studies student at Concordia University. An aspiring writer, you can follow her on twitter @CassDM.
As I was perusing twitter late at night, as I often do when sleep evades me, I came across the fact that June is the start of Italian Heritage Month in Ontario. Being from Montreal and a proud hyphenated Canadian-Italian, I immediately grew nostalgic and then envious, as Montreal doesn’t have such a month but a week in August, Semaine Italienne de Montréal, instead. As great and as much fun as the week is, I can only imagine how much fun an entire month must be.
While I was reading up on different events taking place in Ontario (and becoming increasingly jealous!) I realized that I had my own special Italian heritage event that took place in June. This past Sunday, June 2nd, 2013, my father’s side of the family celebrated 50 years in Canada, while my mother’s side is close to celebrating 43 years in Canada. My mother and her immediate family immigrated to Montreal in 1970 from Silvi Marina in Pescara, Abruzzo, while my father, and subsequently his whole family and a good chunk of his village of Cattolica Eraclea in Agrigento Sicily, immigrated to Canada in 1963.
In the past fifty years my family has come to adopt Canada as our own home and native land while maintaining a strong connection to our heritage, roots, and culture. So, as per my Nonno’s wish, a celebration was in order for this milestone.