Christmas filled with traditions, family and food

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas everywhere you go and for many people this time of the year brings to light many great memories associated with the season.

Holiday traditions, food and gifts bring joy and contentment to many and there is a positive spirit in the air.

We did an informal survey of some people who work with RE/MAX Real Estate (Central) in Calgary for their most vivid thoughts and memories about Christmas.

Nick Profeta, Manager, Associate, Chief Happiness Officer

“In my family, Christmas time was all about being together as a family.  My best memory as a kid was going to see Santa for the first time at North Hill Mall. I think it was the first time we all went as a family. I was about five years old and they took a photo of Santa with me, and my brother Vince and my little sister Rita.”

For the veteran realtor, the best gift he ever received as a kid was a hot wheels race set which came from his godparents. He was so happy to receive it because most of his Christmas gifts were usually clothes.

“My favourite Christmas tradition is our Christmas Eve Dinner with the family. After a traditional Italian seafood dinner we spend time together in the family room around the fireplace, and we enjoy mandarin oranges and roasted chestnuts and watch an old movie on TV. 

“For Christmas food our family does a mix of Italian and Canadian and now from my wife’s family, we added a little Ukrainian and Polish flavours as well. Everything from antipasto, lasagna, turkey, cabbage rolls, and perogies, but my favourites are the side dishes: brussel sprouts, carrots, and mashed potatoes with gravy.”

Dave Eger, Broker

Eger’s favourite childhood Christmas memory was a surprise Christmas trip to Lake Tahoe and Reno as a 12 year old as he got to spend Christmas at Lake Tahoe skiing and enjoying the beauty of the travel destination.

His best gift as a child was his first pair of goalie pads when he was in Grade 5 and a new goalie.

His favourite tradition is “Christmas Eve at my mom’s home with my children. An early Christmas dinner and gift opening with my loved ones on Christmas Eve . . . My favourite Christmas Food is everything my mom makes! Christmas turkey, ham, baked yams, and stuffing. My other favourite is her cabbage rolls!”

Sano Stante, realtor

The best memory of Christmas was the year Stante’s grandmother came over from Italy to spend Christmas with the family. 

“She was very old and I did not know her much except for her visit that year.”

As for the best gift he’s ever received, Stante points to the year when his children made him and his wife breakfast in bed so they could get up earlier to open presents. 

His favourite Christmas traditions include crepes on Christmas morning; gathering later to celebrate with all extended family; playing Italian card games and winning all the quarters from his cousins. 

And of course food.

“Everything that my Mom cooked because she was such an amazing cook. A favourite was baccala, which is Italian salt cod. My mom would prepare it deep fried or with roasted peppers.”

Joe Viani, realtor

“Being Italian we used to always go to Nonna and Nonno’s for Christmas Day. Nonna would cook up the best roast potatoes, to this day no one has been able to replicate them. The best memories are remembering the holidays spent with those who are no longer with us.”

Viani says he’s received so many great gifts over the years “however nothing replaces the smile on my children’s faces when they open theirs.”

His favourite Christmas tradition is gathering with the family to enjoy good food and great wine and his favourite is tortellini in a broth followed by a nice lasagna.

Connie Slippy, Director, Business Development Team

“When I think of my childhood Christmas’, I remember my siblings and I being so excited that we’d wake in the wee hours (somewhere between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m.) and we’d get a flashlight and sneak into the living room to see what Santa had brought. My father loved Christmas and always had the living room full of presents. 

“We’d try to be quiet and wait for a better time before waking our parents, but what felt like hours was probably only a few minutes, so into our parent’s room we’d go to wake them. They would tell us to go back to bed and we would, but we couldn’t go back to sleep, so after a while we’d be up bugging them again and eventually, they would give in and get up and let us open presents. After we opened all our presents Mom would make us a nice breakfast and as we were finishing, we’d see all the neighbour’s lights coming on as they were just waking.

“Our stockings were always overflowing and at the top of each one was a freshly popped big bag of popcorn that my mom had popped on Christmas Eve. I really loved getting that bag of popcorn. In fact, I loved popcorn so much I even received a popcorn machine that used a lightbulb to pop the popcorn. I used it all the time for many years. This was before the days of microwaves and air poppers. It wasn’t until I hit middle-age I discovered I’m allergic to corn and several other things. At that time some business associates wanted to send a gift that truly was just for me, but distance and my allergies were a challenge. They ended up sending me one of the most thoughtful presents – a box of Omaha Steaks. I sure did enjoy those steaks and appreciate their thoughtfulness to this day.”

Gemma Festa, realtor

“My favourite Christmas memory as a child was going to my dad’s Bricklayers/Masonry Union Christmas party. An event I looked forward to as a child because we eagerly anticipated Santa’s arrival, sat on his lap where he paid special attention to you then presented a beautifully wrapped gift!”

Festa’s favourite food for Christmas is the lasagna her mother made “but the look on my dad’s face while he was eating it was priceless, savoured  every bite!”

“The tradition that went on giving and exchanging in our home was the baking of pitta ‘mpigliata – a cookie/ roll that was invented in 1728 in San Giovanni In Fiore, Calabria Italy   …. nuts and raisins soaked in all kinds of alcohol for days then rolled into a cinnamon roll like bread. The smell of baking lingered for days.”

Tanya Eklund, realtor

Best Christmas memories are of waking up to her mom’s home cooking and the smell of the sage from the turkey. 

The best Christmas gift she ever received was a baby grand piano from her husband.

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas at the Eklund household without the traditional turkey dinner which is her favourite including carrot cake.