Smoke and Mirrors

In a perfect world . . .

An Italian Christmas (redux)

I have posted this every year since God only knows when.
After a not so recent comment from the author, (3.3.08) I’ve found  the man behind the story and have given him full credit.
Wonderful story, Bill.
It almost made me take the chino’s to Browntown . . .

An Italian Christmas

by Bill Ervolino

I thought it would be a nice idea to bring a date to my parents’ house on Christmas Eve.
I thought it would be interesting for a non-Italian girl to see how an Italian family spends the holidays. I thought my mother and my date would hit it off like partridges and pear trees.
So, I was wrong. Sue me.

I had only known Karen for three weeks when I extended the invitation.
“I know these family things can be a little weird,” I told her, “but my folks
are great, and we always have a lot of fun on Christmas Eve.”

“Sounds fine to me,” Karen said.

I had only known my mother for 31 years when I told her I’d be bringing Karen with me.
“She’s a very nice girl and she’s really looking forward to meeting all of you.”

“Sounds fine to me,” my mother said.

And that was that.
Two telephone calls.
Two sounds-fine-to-me.
What more could I want?

I should point out, I suppose, that in Italian households, Christmas Eve is the social event of the season — an Italian woman’s reason d’etre.
She cleans. She cooks. She bakes. She orchestrates every minute of the entire evening.
Christmas Eve is what Italian women live for.
I should also point out, I suppose, that when it comes to the kind of women that make Italian men go nuts, Karen is it.

She doesn’t clean.
She doesn’t cook.
She doesn’t bake.

And she has the largest breasts I have ever seen on a human being.

I brought her anyway.


We arrive.
Karen and I walk in and putter around for half an hour waiting for the other guests to show up. During that half hour, my mother grills Karen like a cheeseburger and cannily determines that Karen does not clean, cook, or bake. My father is equally observant. He pulls me into the living room and notes, “She has the largest breasts I have ever seen on a human being.”

7:30 p.m. –

Others arrive. Uncle Ziti walks in with my Aunt Mafalde, assorted kids, assorted gifts.
We sit around the dining room table for antipasto, a symmetrically composed platter of lettuce, roasted peppers, black olives, salami, prosciutto, provolone, and anchovies.
When I offer to make Karen’s plate she says, “Thank you. But none of those things, okay?”
She points to the anchovies. “You don’t like anchovies?” I ask. “I don’t like fish,” Karen announces to one and all, as 67 other varieties of foods-that-swim are baking, broiling and simmering in the next room.

My mother makes the sign of the cross and things are getting uncomfortable.
Aunt Mafalde asks Karen what her family eats on Christmas Eve.
Karen says, “Knockwurst.”
My father, who is still staring in a daze, at Karen’s chest,
temporarily snaps out of it to murmur, “Knockers?”

My mother kicks him so hard he gets a blood clot.
None of this is turning out the way I’d hoped.

8:00 p.m. –

Second course.

The spaghetti and crab sauce is on the way to the table. Karen declines the crab sauce and says she’ll make her own with butter and ketchup. My mother asks me to join her in the kitchen. I take
My “Merry Christmas” napkin from my lap, place it on the “Merry Christmas” tablecloth and walk into the kitchen. “I don’t want to start any trouble,” my mother says calmly, clutching a bottle of ketchup in her hands. “But if she pours this on my pasta, I’m going to throw acid in her face.” “Come on,” I tell her. “It’s Christmas. Let her eat what she wants.”
My mother considers the situation, and then nods.
As I turn to walk back into the dining room, she grabs my shoulder. “Tell me the truth,” she says, “are you serious with this tramp?”
“She’s not a tramp,” I reply. “And I’ve only known her for three weeks.”
“Well, it’s your life”, she tells me, “but if you marry her, she’ll poison you.”

8:30 p.m. –

More fish.
My stomach is knotted like one of those macramé plant hangers that are always three times larger than the plants they hold. All the women get up to clear away the spaghetti dishes, except for Karen, who, instead, lights a cigarette.
“Why don’t you give them a little hand?” I politely suggest.
Karen makes a face and walks into the kitchen carrying three forks.
“Dear, you don’t have to do that,” my mother tells her, smiling painfully.
“Oh, okay,” Karen says, putting the forks on the sink.
As she reenters the dining room, a wine glass flies over her head, and smashes against the wall. From the kitchen, my mother says, “Whoops.”
I vaguely remember that line from Torch Song Trilogy. “Whoops?”
No. “Whoops is when you fall down an elevator shaft.”

More fish comes out.
After some goading, Karen tries a piece of scungilli, which she describes as “slimy, like worms.” My mother winces, bites her hand and pounds her chest like one of those old women you always see in the sixth row of a funeral home.
Aunt Mafalde does the same.
Karen, believing that this is something that all Italian women do on Christmas Eve, bites her hand and pounds her chest. My Uncle Ziti doesn’t know what to make of it.
My father’s dentures fall out and chew a six-inch gash in the tablecloth.

10:00 p.m. –
Coffee, dessert. Espresso all around. A little anisette. A curl of lemon peel.
When Karen asks for milk, my mother finally slaps her in the face with cannoli.
I guess it had to happen sooner or later.
Karen, believing that this is something that all Italian women do on Christmas Eve, picks up cannoli and slaps my mother with it.

“This is fun,” Karen says.

Fun? No. Fun is when you fall down an elevator shaft.
But, amazingly, everyone is laughing and smiling and filled with good cheer — even my mother, who grabs me by the shoulder, laughs and
“Get this bitch out of my house.”

Sounds fine to me.


  1. That is too funny. But at least she had large breasts to stare at.

    I once lived with a European guy and I can remember how much I enjoyed the big family at special occasions, and even told them about it, since I was an only child with just a mother growing up.

    I would have loved to have been at your place though, being able to get a little videotape of that whole scene. I’m assuming you did not marry Karen :)

  2. This is great, Michael. Nothing lasts like a first impression, eh? Yes, what did happen with Karen?

  3. LOL!!! I’m laughing out loud! This is something that would happen in Moonstruck and if you haven’t seen it, you must!!! You are quite the story teller. Keep it up!

  4. I don’t know whether this is all based on any type of truth or not, but it’s hilarious. You have quite the imagination!

  5. Oh my! I can relate. Sort of. I don’t like anchovy either, so I never touched the aglio y olio. Well, not after my first mistake of thinking it was linguini and clams and barely being able to contain myself. I like Easter better. Easter pizza and lamb cake. Mmmm…

  6. it reminds me of my first Christmas Eve with my first generation Italian boyfriend who has been my husband for 14 years. I learned to love seafood on Christmas Eve, but I bring all the “Mangicake” treats, because, let’s face it, chocolate covered toffee squares, shortbread and gingerbread are better than biscotti! (Even my inlaws think so!)

    chocolate covered toffee squares?
    Hmm…you now have my undivided attention. 😉

  7. Hi. I am the author of this story. It first appeared in Long Island’s Nightlife magazine in the early 1980s. A slightly shorter (and cleaner version) appeared in The Record in 1992 and that version appears in my book “Some Kind of Wiseguy” which was published in 1997. Just thought I’d mention it,
    Bill Ervolino

    Brilliant stuff, Bill.
    I’ve now given you all the credit.
    And boy, it is so deserved.

  8. Enjoyed this again. A classic!

  9. OK, as European, even if not Italian but knowing many, I am on a floor laughing so hard my belly hurts.
    Especially the “ketchup and butter” on pasta. It’s still my favourite line to tease all my Italian friends with, and any new ones I meet.

    Great story Bill and Michael, thanks for sharing!

  10. Sounds a lot like when my brother brought a girlfriend home for the holidays, she put ranch dressing on the turkey and insulted the chocolate pie and didn’t bring anything or get off her ass for shit. Needless to say she isn’t around any longer. Her breasts weren’t near big enough.

  11. My holiday mood is not unlike the weather: lots of sleet, lots of cold. But this Christmas story made the sun come out, if only for a moment. You can’t ask more than that from a blog. Thanks, my dear.

  12. Luckily, I married a woman of Irish heritage…

    …with the biggest pair of breasts I have ever seen.

  13. Hey M –

    That WAS funny! I have Italian relatives (through marriage – not mine) and they are like that.

    Visit my blog and look for the “Foster Brooks’s Wife” post. I want to know what you think. I had a stomach ache after I heard it.


  14. I’ll be back to read this post later tonight, but I wanted to drop by and say hi. :)

    It’s been a while.

    But anyways.

    1. I really love this layout. It fits your blog well. I know it will probably only see the light of day for a few months because I know how you love to change it, but I definitely love this one.

    2. I just broke out the Christmas music and your cd was in the rotation. You have a truly wonderful voice. You have voice that could make any Christmas cozier.

    Hope all is well. I’ll stop by and comment this place up to remedy my absence as of late. Later! :)

  15. Too funny!!! This was my 1st time reading this and I can’t stop laughing!! I did something like this, myself, once!!! My soon to be Father-in-law worked for Hostess and at our 1st meeting, I was telling everyone at the dinner table that I loved Devil Dogs!!! Whoops – those were made by Drakes!!!! Thanks for the post!!! :)

    Goh! That’s too funny!
    I got this story in an email many years ago but it was attributed to no one.
    I posted it and made sure I said I did not write it.
    Sure enough several years ago the author (Bill Ervolino) left me a comment that it was him that wrote it.
    And yeah, it’s a hoot!
    Thanks for stopping by, LB

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


© 2016 Smoke and Mirrors

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑