Create memories with holiday feasts
“…so much of life…is about trying to grab and hold memories…” (Rick Kogan/The Maestro/Chicago Tribune Magazine)
As we get older we cherish memories. They are our lifeline to our past. This is especially true during holiday seasons.
Our grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, and others are gone. Cousins are spread across the country. Kids are grown and on their own. Sometimes they do not want to continue the seasonal feasting.
You are left with memories of the past holiday feasts.
If you come from an “etnic” family, holiday food and feasting were the norms. Days of shopping and scouring the city for the best products. Going to the butcher for lamb or ham.
Going across town to the ethnic bakery because they have the best pastries or cookies. Going to two, three, or more ethnic delis for specialty ingredients.
Then there is the prep work and baking which starts a few days before the feast. The cooking starts early on the big day.
There was a glimmer of pride in the eyes of those preparing the meal. Preparing the feast was no chore. It was passion and love.
The feasts were like a religious ritual. Done season after season, year after year, decade after decade.
When all is ready, and tables are groaning with food, you sit and eat, and eat, and eat.
If you are young, you listen to the stories.
The stories of your grandparents and the immigrant experience.
The stories of hard times and kind people. The stories of real communities where people helped each other, gave what little they had, and never depended on the “dole.”
The stories of their feasting. Their good times. How their parents prepared the lamb or ham, baked the cookies, or the quality of the home made wine.
They are always the same stories. Once in a while, a new memory is added.
You realize that even in hard times when there was little, some feast was created. People pooled what little they had to celebrate.
You eat and drink some more. At the end of every feast, my dad would put his hands on his belly. He would say the same thing. “If I die right now, I will die a happy man.”
When it is your turn, you prepare the feasts. You do the shopping, the prepping, and the work. It is your table people sit around. You are the one with pride glistening in your eye. You add your memories to the mix.
Fate plays cruel tricks. The people dwindle away. It gets tougher and tougher to prepare the feast for so few. The feasting ends. You are left with memories.
Sometimes you think, maybe you will recreate those past times. You plan a traditional family feast. Somewhere along the line, you realize there will be too few or no one to share the feast.
So, you sit and remember. You see the dead sitting around those tables. The glisten in their eyes and smiles on their faces. The pride they took in providing the feast. The love of the people all around those tables. Your throat catches. Your eyes water.
Those memories are “Kodak Moments” in your mind’s eye.
Maybe you think about going to brunch with friends. Or just having a few people over. Maybe you are invited to someone else’s dinner.
It is not the same. Something is missing. Something more important than sharing food. Traditions and rituals that somehow survived through millenniums, like people, die.
“…so much of life…is about trying to grab and hold memories…” Those memories are all we have to savor. They are something to hold on to. They should not be allowed to fade like the old photos above.
If you are feasting with family and friends this Easter, enjoy. Create new memories. Teach the young to keep traditions alive. Like religion, tradition and ritual are what keep families and communities together.
Easter is a religious celebration. But, like Christmas or Thanksgiving, it is so much more. Feasting is a celebration of faith and those we love. It is sharing what we have with them. It is sharing love.