Memories of Christmas Past

Christmas is an introspective time of year, where memories from our childhood, our children’s childhoods or Christmases of our more recent past all combine to shape our feelings about the holiday.  At least that is how it is for me.

From my childhood, I remember the Tuscan tradition of the Lettera a Eabbo Natale. The lettera, which children write to their fathers telling them how good they have been for the year, determines the kind of present they’ll receive. Every year at Christmas lunch, fathers all over Tuscany feign surprise at finding the letters under their plates, then proceed to read them aloud to everyone’s delight.

However, as much as I miss the traditions of my homeland, I cannot deny the pleasure I take from remembering the joy in my young children’s eyes as they walked though Rockefeller Center looking at the lights, the Christmas tree and the skating rink, or as they opened their presents.

Holiday memories from my early days in New York are filled with the sights and smells of Christmas in the City: the unmistakable aroma of roasted Chestnuts from the vendor at 4th Street and 6th Avenue and the sounds of the ringing bells and Christmas carols sung by the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Volunteers.

Today, dare I say ‘bah humbug!’ for everything seems to have changed!

I have been gone from my Italian homeland for over 30 years and my children are grown. Roasted chestnuts are now sold from the same street cart as chili-onion hotdogs, sourdough pretzels and cheese knishes. The Red Kettle Volunteers don’t ring their bells and sing Christmas Carols anymore – rather, they sing a more contemporary tune to catch the attention of today’s shoppers. I shook my head as I passed Bloomingdales recently and heard the Village People’s hit, YMCA, coming from a boom box placed on the ground next to the Red Kettle while the Volunteers and many in the crowd danced on the sidewalk!

So, while I mourn the past and the way things were, I can at least take comfort in the fact that some things about Christmas haven’t changed. For a few weeks every year, the City seems friendlier, people seem happier, we make time to spend with friends and family and we go out of our way to bring happiness to others.

It is in that joyful spirit that I take this opportunity to personally thank you for making Morso part of your extended circle of friends and family this year and to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year.

Pino Luongo

December 2013