Category Archives: Chicago

Christmas Traditions In Italy


Italian traditions in Italy are based on the religion of Christianity. Christmas starts eight days before Christmas and lasts till after the Feast of Epiphany. Musical salutes are made at the shrine of the Virgin Mary and songs are played at the homes of carpenters in honor of St. Joseph. Eight days before Christmas, a special Novena of prayers and church services begin. It all ends on Christmas Day. On December 23rd, sometimes earlier, children dressed as shepherds with sandals, leggings tied with crossing thongs, and wearing shepherds’ hats, go from house to house playing songs on shepherds’ pipes and giving recitations. They receive money to buy Christmas treats. In cities like Rome real shepherds sometimes carry out the performance. A strict fast is observed 24 hours before Christmas after which a meal with many dishes (but no meat) is served. The traditional Christmas dinner, Cenone, is made up of spaghetti and anchovies, an assortment of fish, fresh broccoli, tossed salad, fruits, and sweets.


A Yule log, the Ceppo, is burned, and toasts in wine and wishes for the future are expressed. The Urn of Fate, an old Italian tradition, is a large ornamental bowl that holds wrapped gifts for members of the family. When the family gets together, each member takes his turn at drawing a gift from the urn until all the presents are distributed. The presepio (manger or crib) represents in miniature the Holy Family in the stable and is the center of Christmas for families. Guests kneel before it and musicians sing before it . The presepio figures are usually hand-carved and very detailed in features and dress. The scene is often set out in the shape of a triangle. This is a wooden frame arranged to make a pyramid several feet high. Several tiers of thin shelves are supported by this frame. It is entirely decorated with colored paper, gilt pine cones, and miniature colored pennants. Small candles are fastened to the tapering sides. A star or small doll is hung at the apex of the triangular sides. The shelves above the manger scene have small gifts of fruit,candy, and presents.


The ceppo is in the old Tree of Light tradition which became the Christmas tree in other countries. Some houses even have a ceppo for each child in the family. The ceppo is a wooden frame several feet high designed in a pyramid shape. This frame supports several tiers of shelves, often with a manger scene on the bottom followed by small gifts of fruit, candy, and presents on the shelves above. The “Tree of Light,” as it is also know, is entirely decorated with colored paper, gilt pinecones, and miniature colored pennants. Small candles are fastened to the tapering sides and a star or small doll is hung at the apex. From the Castle of Saint Angelo in Rome a cannon is tired to proclaim the opening of the Holy Season. Each tries to outdo the other by displaying the biggest presepio.


La Befana:  Kindly old witch who brings children toys on the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6. According to the legend of la Befana, the Three Wise Men stopped at her hut to ask directions on their way to Bethlehem and to invite her to join them. She refused, and later a shepherd asked her to join him in paying respect to the Christ Child. Again she refused, and when night fell she saw a great light in the skies. Children in Italy hang up their stockings on the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6. They celebrate the visit of the Three Kings to Bethlehem. Instead of Santa Claus, children are expecting Befana. She is a witch-like character who rides around on a broom. The legend is that the Three Wise Men, I re magi, stopped at Befana’s hut to ask directions on their way to Bethlehem and asked her to join them. She said no, she was too busy. Later a shepherd asked her to join him in paying respect to the Baby Jesus. Again, Befana said no. Later when it was dark and she saw a great light in the skies, she thought perhaps she should have gone with the Wise Men. So, she gathered some toys that had belonged to her own baby, who had died, and ran to find the kings and the shepherd. But Befana could not find them or the stable. Now, each year she looks for the Christ Child. And each year since she can not find him, she leaves the gifts for the good children of Italy and pieces of charcoal for the bad ones.


No meat is eaten for twenty-four hours before Christmas Eve, but there follows a meal as big as the family can afford. A special New Year Banquet is eaten on the last day of the year, with raisin bread, turkey, chicken, rabbit, and spaghetti. Champagne is the drink of the evening.


DECEMBER 6: La Festa di San Nicola – The festival in honor of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of shepherds, is celebrated in towns such as Pollutri with the lighting of fires under enormous cauldrons, in which fave (broad beans) are cooked, then eaten ceremoniously.

DECEMBER 8: L’Immacolata Concezione – celebration of the Immaculate Conception

DECEMBER 13: La Festa di Santa Lucia – St. Lucy’s Day

DECEMBER 24: La Vigilia di Natale – Christmas Eve

DECEMBER 25: Natale – Christmas

DECEMBER 26: La Festa di Santo Stefano – St. Stephen’s Day marks the announcement of the birth of Jesus and the arrival of the Three Wise Men

DECEMBER 31: La Festa di San Silvestro – New Year’s Eve

JANUARY 1: Il Capodanno – New Year’s Day

JANUARY 6: La Festa dell’Epifania – The Epiphany



Lost Treasures of the 20th Century

I was sitting back today thinking of my childhood and the childhood of this generation. I had to laugh when I thought of my granddaughter coming up to me and asking me about a record album she had seen in my family room, she wanted to know what it was. I tried to explain that is what we call a vinyl record and that’s how we listened to music growing up, she looked at me like I had three heads. So I took out my record player, yes I still have my old record player from my sixteenth birthday, put the record on and let it play, she then turned to me and said really grandma that’s what you listen to, and I said you bet. I also explained that we would save up our allowance to buy records monthly.  And then she laughed when I showed her my transistor radio yes I still have that to along with my brownie camera, my tiny tears doll and my Gerber baby.

Going out and playing my god we would leave the house in the morning and wouldn’t come home to dinner, never do I ever remember saying I was bored, or did I even otter those words or know what that was.  But the kids today when you say go out and play they ask you what your suppose to do, REALLY.  The last thing we wanted was to stay in the house.

We had one telephone in the house and I remember at one time having a party line, when I told my grandchildren that they actually thought it was a party line they said wow how cool to have a party on the phone. UGH

It sadden me to think what this generation is missing, fun today is how much you can spend on them, or what electronic device can keep them occupied.

I laugh when I go into a bathroom and you don’t even have to flush a toilet anymore or turn on a faucet. I hate to ask what’s next. Kids today half of them can’t tell time on a clock, handwrite, or tie their shoes. They have to wear a helmet and knee and elbow pads to ride a bike. And it just makes me nuts every time I hear well it’s not politically correct. All I know I and my brothers and friends and all the kids of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s survived and are here today to talk about this. I hope you all enjoy my blog please leave comments.record record player gerber_doll tiny tears

Fur Slipper Gang of Chicago


A friend of mine told me this story the other day and found it so cool. He  can remember his mother telling him a story about when she was about eight or ten years old (she was born in 1929) that she lived in an apartment building with her family that also had a bank robbing gang living in the building. (his mother and his aunt were paid $5 to keep their mouths shut. lol ) They were called the Fur Slipper Gang because they would have a woman dress up as an old lady with slippers. She would rob the bank while the other gang member(s) stayed in the getaway car. His mother told him they got caught when the police were canvassing the neighborhood and knocked on the robbers apartment door and the woman who answered the door was still wearing the slippers from when she dressed up as an old lady to rob the bank.  Has anyone else ever heard of them? The lived at 624 May St. And when I looked up the 1940 Census records sure enough I found them. They where arrested on Feb. 4 1940. Five members of the “fur slipper gang” were indicted (one was a woman). They robbed over a hundred banks.