by Lisa Perkins
On a mild Sunday afternoon at the beginning of December, Casa Italia was home of the first-ever Christmas Village hosted jointly by Casa Italia, Calabresi in America Organization, Societa San Francesco di Paola, Casa Puglia and the Italian American Executives of Transportation. According to Tony Turano, President of the Casa Italia, the idea has been discussed for nearly 10 years and he was happy to be a part of its beginning. The purpose of the day was to bring together as many Italian-American organizations as possible to celebrate the spirit of Christmas as well as to celebrate the common and unique Christmas traditions of all Italian Americans.
The festive day began with Mass at the Sacred Heart Chapel featuring a live nativity made up of dozens of costumed participants of every age. The grounds of the Casa Italia glistened with festive lights and Christmas decorations where families, friends and visitors enjoyed chestnuts roasted on an open fire and horse-drawn sleigh rides. Besides the tantalizing aromas, the air was filled with the awe-inspiring sounds of a strolling zampognaro, an Italian bagpipe player, as well as harmonious Christmas carols led by the Casa Italia Choir. Many impromptu sing-along carols sprung forth as children and adults were overcome with the spirit of the season.
On the west side of the grounds, the Chandelier Room was transformed into the throne of the beloved Santa Claus and his elves. Professional photographers from Furla Studios were on hand to snap free photographs of wish-makers with the jolly old man. Besides a photograph with Santa, each tot, tiny or not, their eyes all aglow, received a bountiful bag of goodies as a foretaste of the ultimate gifts to be received on Christmas day.
Across the lawn, the banquet center was a toasty oasis where folks could escape Jack Frost’s nipping of the nose. Traditional Italian treats such as cuccedrata, scalidre, turdiddri, cuddrurieddri (fried dough) and torrone were plentiful, and the espresso, hot chocolate and tasty eggnog were flowing.
Vito D’Ambrosio, president of the Italian American Executives of Transportation, was pleased with the exposure for the Casa Italia, and noted that this was the first visit to the Casa by many of the attendees. These sentiments were echoed by Frank DeCicco, president of the Calabresi in America Organization, who added that he enjoyed the opportunity to become acquainted with other members of the Italian-American community.
Tony Turano expects next year’s event to be even grander thanks to the anticipated involvement of other Italian-American clubs and organizations.
Plans are already in the works, and the date for the 2012 Christmas Village is set for December 1, 2012.