The 12 Fish of Christmas

By Isabella 

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As a TCK, naturally traditions collide.

On the 8th we decorate the house with lights, holly, ivy and mistletoe, the tree and a nativity set, as time goes on, more and more characters fill the nativity.

December 13th comes la Befana (the good witch) to children, who showers them with gifts, or coal if they have been naughty. Adults just give each other chocolate.

As school holidays begin and there is time before the Christmas rush begins, the family goes to various Christmas markets in Germany and France in search for Scandinavian gnomes (Nisse) to decorate the house with and unique baubles to decorate the tree with, so our collection from Kazakhstan, Poland, the US, Italy and Britain may grow.

My Christmas starts on the 24th, with the appearance of the first star. This is when everyone will sit and have dinner together. This is called Wigilia. Under the tablecloth is hay, essentially from the manger that Christ was born in. No red meat is served under Polish and Italian tradition, only 12 different fish dishes to symbolise the 12 Apostles and beetroot soup. If one was to look around the table, one chair is always empty, in case a lonely wanderer was to be in need of food. This all being tradition in Poland brought to the household by my mother. Who will end the meal with gingerbread cake – Piernik, a favourite.

The 25th starts with the exchange of gifts, but also Italian liquor, Bombardino, traditionally served in the Alps. Then a tour of the presepi, various nativity sets set up by all the towns in Italy and of course we prepare for dinner. This being a mix of Italian and British tradition, naturally we have turkey, mince pies, Christmas pudding, Brussels sprouts, mulled wine, but also pannetone, chicken liver canapés (a Tuscan tradition), polenta and chicken soup. A harmonious British-Italian Christmas dinner, needless to say everyone is happily as stuffed as the turkey.

The 26th all tradition stops and the family happily eat left overs while watching films such as The Grinch and play Christmas music. With any luck snow has fallen and everyone is gathered around the fire content with another family Christmas filled with a range of tradition, new and old.

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