Saler-KNOWS Tradition: An Insight to a Family’s Christmas Tradition

By J1 Reporter Lydia Larson

Tradition. Something that makes a family unite. In the dictionary, “tradition” states, “Transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation.”

Some traditions are simple and do not have much significance behind them, but some can be elaborate, passed down from generation to generation. These traditions could possibly link back to a family’s heritage and bring more meaning behind a holiday.

The Salerno family has some insight on a no-so-traditional tradition that they enjoy every Christmas. Originating from Italy, this tradition makes their family connection even stronger because of its power to connect sisters junior Stevie and freshman Gigi Salerno to their family roots.

The tradition of making sfinges, a dough dessert, comes straight from Italy. They are not very well known in other cultures and are hard to find in other places besides their native land. Stevie says, “The tradition started in Italy and is a Christmas tradition in Carlentini, Italy. This city had several bakeries that made sfinges.  When my great grandmother emigrated to America in 1911, she would make sfinges for her children every Christmas, a tradition her family started when she was little. She started doing it to bring her family together to make Christmas a fun-filled family experience.”

The making of sfinge dates back almost 100 years and sticks with the Salerno family more than gifts ever could. It is something that everyone looks forward to throughout the year because it reminds them of the importance of family and the great memories that come with it.

As time goes by, this Salerno tradition stays strong no matter what adversity the family may encounter. “As her children got married, my great grandmother would make a few dozens for her children and grandchildren which was delicious, but they had to savor them because they only got two or three each,” Stevie said.

“After awhile, my great grandmother got too old to continue.” Instead of letting the tradition die, Salerno’s great grandmother revived baking into another generation, her female grandchildren. With more people able to make the treat, more sfinges were created, satisfying everyone’s needs. Stevie said, “As the family grew the grandchildren made much larger batches so everyone got their fill.” 

The process of making these delicious desserts starts a week before Christmas. The entire Salerno family gets together to make treats. The aunts start making the dough for the delicious sfinges while the rest of the family makes Christmas cookies. They put the dough aside until Christmas day, where the family meets back up again to put the sfinge dough in boiling water. After they are boiled, the aunts coat the dessert in cinnamon sugar and drizzle honey on top.

“Sometimes it can get crazy in the kitchen. The aunts are the only ones who make them because sfinges wouldn’t be good if everyone else helped make them. They are the best at making them for sure,” Stevie said as she laughed.

Sometimes traditions can be fun and do not necessarily have a deep meaning behind them. Freshman Gigi Salerno said, “I don’t know really why we do it. It’s just something our family has always done and it’s also fun for everyone. It does link us back to our Italian ancestors.”

Though it does not have a deep, significant meaning behind it, this tradition “would be weird if we didn’t do it,” Gigi said. Keeping a tradition alive can bring some challenges, but to the Salernos, it was easy. “My aunts and uncles grew up doing it so when they had their own families, they wanted to keep the tradition alive through passing it down to their children,” Gigi said.

Traditions keep families close and they celebrate something that can go back many generations. They are important and teach children that family is above all. It’s something that brings everyone together and “we all look forward to,” Gigi said. No matter the age differences, tradition helps in building strong family relationships and connect to past generations. Traditions give people the sense of belonging.

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