Thursday, November 30, 2006

Santa and Bruno

Every family has its holiday traditions, and ours is no exception. We are Italian, so therefore our big night is Christmas Eve. We serve several courses of various kinds of fish: fried calamari and shrimp cocktail for appetizers; mussels marinara and baccala balls as a first course; and a delicious red clam sauce with aldente linguini for a main course that only my aunt and my cousin can create in their special way every year. There is red wine aplenty, and after dinner we serve whole nuts with a nutcracker and fruit to pick on such as tangerines, pears and grapes. Dessert consists of the usual Italian fare of cannolis, Sfogliatelle , Napoleons and rum cakes, and of course, my famous varied-flavor-of-the-month-brownies made from scratch. Christmas music by Frank Sinatra is a given.

In between courses, we pause for a game of “Initials”…for example, we’ll write “Merry Christmas” down one side of a piece of paper, and right next to it, we’ll write it again, but going upwards (that would make the first two initials “MS”). We place an egg timer on the table and set it for 5 minutes, and begin to find celebrities, athletes and even cartoon characters that match the initials (for instance, “MS” could be Mark Spitz, the Olympic swimming champion who won seven gold medals in 1972). The person who has the most “for real” names when the timer goes off wins! What they win, we still don’t know.

Sometimes we’ll place a sticker on everyone’s backs when they arrive with the name of someone famous written on it. The point of that icebreaker game is to ask other people yes or no questions about who “you” are and figure out what person is stuck on your back (for example, one year my then-58-year-old, rap-hating brother “J” had “Eminem” stuck on his back…it took him all night to ask the right questions before he guessed who he was, and once he did, we all fell on the floor laughing at the expression on his face)!

In years past, we had a wonderful tradition of singing “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, assigning each of the twelve days to different people who would sing their part of the song on cue. My dear, departed Uncle Murray was always the “Five Golden Rings”, and he sang it in his best baritone to all of our enjoyment. Sadly, as our parents passed on, the tradition of this fun song seemed to pass on with them. However, the young people decided that it was time to build some traditions of their own, and one Christmas about 15 years ago, Santa and Bruno were born.

Santa and Bruno are sorry-looking Christmas creatures played by my two nephews, Chris and Chris (thankfully, they aren’t brothers!). Santa has a cotton ball beard taped onto his chin, each puff hanging single-file down to the end of his neck. His hat is a classic Claus cap, but his pants vary every year from disco pants to ripped jeans to green tights. Bruno, his red-dot-cheeked-sidekick, always wears an elf cap and elf ears, even if he has to create them himself out of various household items. They arrive sometime around 11pm and hand out personally crafted presents to everyone in attendance. However, these are not your usual handmade gifts. These are very, very special Santa and Bruno gifts.

The first year of Santa and Bruno, I got a piece of sidewalk chalk with a face drawn on it and a pushpin nose. This has become my signature gift every year since, although some years it varies by color or even theme (I believe one year the chalk was dressed in Barbie clothes, and another year the pushpin had a propeller on it). There have been gifts such as my husband’s “Health Food Starter Kit” which consisted of a dried-up baby carrot inside of a round film case. Or the time my cousin got a “Diet Utensil Set” that contained a spoon with three holes drilled into it and a fork with no prongs. My sister-in-law got a thong made out of duct tape once. But our favorite gifts seem to be the ones that they bestow onto my brother (of the afore-mentioned “Eminem” fame).

Knowing the borderline hypochondriac that he is, Santa and Bruno are always careful to create just the right item to pack in their sack for “J”. Three years ago, “J” got a fortune cookie that was configured out of some unidentifiable food. When he opened it up, his fortune read, “You have 20 minutes left to live.” Okay, so it wasn’t funny to my brother. But it had the rest of us rolling because we understand his death paranoia so well. One year he got a membership to the OJ Simpson Fan Club. One of the best gifts that “J” ever got was labeled “My First Pool Toy” and was made out of a wooden handle, two feet of rope and a 10 lb. round weight. After that, he wondered if someone was trying to tell him something.

The funny thing is, every year Chris and Chris seem to miss Santa and Bruno’s visit, and only show up after they’ve left. What’s even funnier is that the whole family goes along with it every single time; we all put on our sad faces and whine that if only they arrived 5 minutes earlier, they finally would’ve met Santa and Bruno!

Okay, I have a weird family, it’s true. However, our love of laughter keeps us going even through the worst of times…and trust me, we’ve seen our share. But I find that it’s traditions such as these that make for the wonderful memories that we have that bring out our Christmas spirit every year. Our Christmas Eve celebration has always been exceptional in days gone by, and will continue to be special in the years to come. With Santa and Bruno, how could it not be?

Happy Holidays!!


Betty said...

This is unbelievable! Honestly, I thought family get-togethers like this only happened in movies. I am so jealous!


Kacey said...

Wonderful, wonderful! You have a family of originals --- don't ever let them stop. This makes the awful commercial Christmas things look terrible. I want to come to your house --- what joyful traditions!

Anonymous said...

I want to come to your house too during the holiday!!! sounds tons of fun! and yummy food too...
Happy holiday to you and your lovely family Lisa. Have a safe and wonderful Christmas holiday.

Lisa said...

Betty, Kacey and Summer-

You would all be welcome! We have taken in various people over the years for our Christmas Eve celebration, and everyone always has fun! It's my family's favorite holiday, and I would imagine that's because it was OUR parent's favorite holiday...and our memories help to make it the wonderful time that it is.

Betty, my post, "S.E., BABY!" from 9/10/06, I briefly mention my uncle who was Frank Sinatra's opening cousin by far had the most interesting life because of his acquaintances, him being her father...but the "fame" side of his career enamored us all! Add to that the fact that we are all somewhat dramatic and animated in my family...and you definitely have a recipe for a holiday right out of the movies!

Take good care,

Anonymous said...

Hi! Lisa
My 1st husband was Italian, he came from Calabria,(he's a whole other blog), and I enjoyed his mother's cooking so much. She is the one who introduced me to real Italian cooking and gave me my love for Italian food.
Family get-togethers at his house meant laughing, talking and fighting.
I hope you don't mind, but I just stole your game, I love to play boardgames with my grandkids, especially word games., and this one sounds like a lot of fun., and the price is right.
Thanks, great post.

Anonymous said...

My 1st husband was born and raised in Calabria Italy. I loved visiting my mother-in-law who always had something smelling good on the stove. Although she could barely speak english and I knew no Italian, we got along well. Thats when I fell in love with Italian Food. Try as I might I could never duplicate her cooking but I think I've come close.
Sorry, but I just stole your dinner game. I love playing boardgames with my grandkids like Scrabble and Scattergories, and this one sounds like a lot of fun that we can play while we eat.
This is a great way to keep conversation going at the table and make meal time fun again. Thank you.

Lisa said...


Those games are meant to pass on! I'm using the sticker one tomorrow night, as I'm having several couples over that haven't been here before. It's a great icebreaker. Someone introduced that game to us, and it's fun!

Initials, well, we've been playing that one for as long as I can remember! Definitely makes for some laughs, especially when someone decides to make up a name, and insist that it's a real celebrity!

Thanks for stopping by!

Take good care,

Anonymous said...

what's wrong with a weird family? that's what makes life interesting! sounds like you have a great holiday tradition, may it keep up for many generations.\

new column's up:

I can't Believe it!

Teri said...

Dear Lisa...not weird, not strange...just yours - and wonderful! By the way, you made me sooooo hungry. Love the way you spin your tales chica! Now, I've got to find some food, but I am sure it will pale in comparison to your Christmas Eve menu of family and friends.

Ciao for now.

Anonymous said...

Lisa, you have been tagged on my blog. check it out. i highly appreciate your reply.Have fun with it.

Lisa said...


You are right, weird makes for interesting, and certainly gives me plenty of material to put on my blog!

I'll check out your new post today, looking forward to it!

Take good care,

Lisa said...


Thanks for the compliment! My family is very dramatic, and, am I. ;) I write 'em as I see 'em!

There are so many wonderful tales from my past, and I hope to blog them in the future. My family has always been and still is very colorful. Thanks for stopping by, it's always good to hear from you!

Take good care,

Big Dave T said...

Wow, what wonderful and fun traditions. I like the pranks. We once pulled one on our grandfather at a big Xmas party. We were all gathered together and given the name of an animal we were to imitate. The game was barnyard. When my aunt said, "Go" we were all supposed to make the sound of our animal.

But the switch was that only grandpa was given an animal. The rest of us were told to keep quiet. So when my aunt said "go", my grandpa started braying like a you-know-what. It took him a couple choruses to figure out the joke; then my aunt had to run. I'll never forget that.

Lisa said...


Oh my gosh, I'm hysterical laughing over here...that is really funny!! I'll bet your family gets great enjoyment repeating that holiday story!

...Good to have you back! Looking forward to more of your posts.

Take good care,