While the Christmas season doesn’t really kick off in Italy until December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the Christmas spirit hits me like shot the day after Thanksgiving. Black Friday they call it, while serious shoppers hit the mega sales in the States, I’m sitting on the floor amid a mountain of boxes filled with decorations, animated toys, and 25 years worth of Christmas ornaments.
The holidays. It’s my favorite time of year no matter where I am.
That time of year when all I want to do is cocoon, cook, and recreate the holidays of my youth. Well perhaps not of my youth, but certainly the Norman Rockwell holidays we all aspired to have.
Ours were probably more like Home for the Holidays, the 1995 cautionary tale of Thanksgiving in America directed by Jodie Foster and staring Robert Downey Jr. and Holly Hunter .
Either way, Thanksgiving still kicks those emotions into overdrive and after last year’s Charlie Brown Christmas (minus the tree), courtesy of our never ending move from Posillipo to Chiaia, I planned a big kick-off to the holiday season this year.
Best laid plans.
It was supposed to be a quick 2 week trip to Chania, Crete. Yes, the same Chania where we spent five weeks this summer. We were to return on November 18th, plenty of time to get ready for Thanksgiving and kick off the holiday season in style. Four weeks later, Thanksgiving has come and gone and I’m still here in Chania.
And what of Thanksgiving?
I’m sorry to say that I missed a wonderful Thanksgiving luncheon organized by the Naples Allied Spouses Club (ASC) who extended a special invitation to the American International Women’s Club (AIWC) this year. Held at the Holiday Inn in Castel Volturno, the NSA High School band and singers were on hand to entertain and I’m told, the food, wine and friendship flowed. I will just have to live vicariously through Tricia’s pictures.
Meanwhile, my own small but intimate gathering of friends followed by the ceremonial decorating of our tiny apartment over the long weekend got put on the back burner. In the spirit of the day, it was to be a gathering of American, British, Australian, and Italian friends to share a traditional American feast of Turkey and all the trimmings.
The requisite canned goods were bought and the 22 lb Butterball Turkey came rolling home in a shopping trolley a few weeks before the day. We were ecstatic. It comfortably fit into our European oven with enough room to spare for the roasting pan. Then, we opened the freezer. One of those modern jobs with useless plastic drawers, you can guess the rest. Tom the Turkey rolled away in the shopping trolley it came in to the freezer of one of our guests and Thanksgiving was saved.
But not for long. Unfortunately Tom the Turkey is still resting comfortably in her freezer and the canned goods and my guests (I hope) wait for my return. Perhaps a belated Thanksgiving, early Christmas celebration.
And Thanksgiving in Chania?
I tried to brush it off, but my heart still longed for my only real American tradition. The smell of fresh baked pies and the holiday aromas of cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg wafting through the air. Gathering in the kitchen with family and friends to prepare the feast, more of a social call than a cooking chore. And repeating the same two questions heard every year, in every kitchen in the States, “Is the Turkey thaw? Is the Turkey cooked?”
And that’s the surprise to this whole saga.
The day was saved by an Aussie friend of mine. The warm and gracious Alex from Chania Old Town Walks and her partner Antonis who owns Chania’s Vilelmine Hotel offered to host Thanksgiving at their charming apartment overlooking Cathedral square in Old Town.
I thought she was crazy at first and gave her a few days to reconsider after we enjoyed a bit of wine over long lunch at Kouzina. An archeologist by trade with severe anthropological tendencies, it turns out she’d never experienced an American Thanksgiving and wanted to know what all the fuss was about.
Well fuss we did and after a day of shopping and pie baking on Wednesday we spent Thanksgiving day basting the turkey, making all of the trimmings and sitting down to a proper American Thanksgiving dinner. It was an unexpected surprise in an unexpected place.
As I post this I’m still in Chania counting the hours until my return to Bella Napoli. We were supposed to come back today, now it’s tomorrow, and every time the phone rings I find out our flight is delayed by another hour.
Here’s to hoping I make it back by Christmas Eve!!!