International traditions influence holidays in Henrico


Senior Maya Autorino and her family listen to the zampognari.

Campbell Clanton, Assistant Features Editor

Many students celebrate Christmas each year, but others carry along unique traditions among their families during the winter holiday season.

   In a recent informal poll, about 94 percent of students and their families celebrate Christmas; however, some students like sophomore Mason Goldstein are among the six percent that celebrate another holiday.

   Goldstein celebrates Hanukkah, and every night of the holiday, he has his extended family over to light the candles of the menorah.

   Senior Maya Autorino celebrates Christmas, but since she is from Italy, she has a different way of celebrating the holiday. In Italy, she celebrates Christmas on Dec. 24 instead of Dec. 25, as most Americans do. On Christmas Eve, she and her family have a big dinner and cook fried fish, either cod or capitone, a European eel that is traditional to eat in Italy on Christmas Eve. Italians typically buy the fish on Dec. 23 each year from fish markets on the street. Autorino and her family also eat struffoli, a pastry made of fried dough covered with honey and roccocò, a traditional cookie originating from Naples, similar to a donut, for dessert.

   “I don’t eat the cod, capitone, or any of the fish-based dishes because I’m vegetarian, but my favorite Christmas food is the struffoli,” Autorino said.

   Once dinner ends around 11 p.m., they play tombola, a Neapolitan game that’s similar to bingo. Then they attend Catholic mass at midnight, and once they come home, they add the baby Jesus to their nativity scene and wait for the zampognari.

   “Zampognari are like Christmas carolers,” Autorino said. “They go around the villages and play a southern Italian instrument called the zampogna, which is similar to the bagpipe.”

  In another poll, students who celebrate Christmas were asked if they opened presents on Christmas Eve or day. Forty students, like senior Bella Bucks and junior Ethan Slush, reported that they had opened presents on Christmas Eve, whereas 208 students said that they opened presents on Christmas Day traditionally.

   Students have many different ways of celebrating different holidays, but the common theme is they all gather with their families and have a good time, something we have learned not to take for granted in the last year.