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Family Forum: How Does Your Family Celebrate Spring Holidays?

Our weekly discussion where you weigh in on parenting issues and topics.

This week Patch is asking families how they celebrate spring and what traditions their family has for the upcoming holidays of Easter and Passover.  Cindy Arancio of our local Family Forum Council shared with us some of her traditions. What are some of yours?

 Our family celebrates Easter with some favorite recipes passed down from my grandmother, whose family was from Naples and Genoa in Italy.  I remember our extended family gathering on Easter morning in Flushing to sample her sugar pizza hot out of the pan. The aunts, uncles and cousins would then rush off to mass and return to our house midday for the family meal.  

Besides the antipasto, the Pizzagaina, was a highlight.  Piaazgaina (Italian Easter pie) is a meat, cheese and egg filled pastry that is so rich it is served in thin slices.  For many years, us younger folks tried in vain to recreate Grandma Jennie's wonderful dishes, but she was one of those cooks who did not write things down.  I discovered a recipe for Pizza Rustica, which is similar to Pizzagaina, but if you know anything about Italian cooking, you know that each region of Italy has its own way with cuisine.  It was close, but not quite as I remembered it. 

We did not have the same luck with trying to make Sugar Pizza.  One year, I made "Resurrection Bread" which was wonderful and lemony, but too cake like and dense. 

Last year I tried to sweeten dough and bake it, but it was dry and bland.  Recently I decided to give it one more try before writing this piece for the Family Forum.  I learned (thanks to Google) that Pizzagaina is a phonetic representation for Pizza Chena, which means full pizza - aha!  I was onto something.  A few more mouse clicks and there were many versions for me to experiment with.

I felt lucky, and called my friend Tony who speaks Italian fluently.  He told me that zucchero is the Italian word for sugar and faster than you can say buona Pasqua, (happy Easter in Italian) before me was the recipe for Pizza di Zucchero.  It turns out that it is very much like a large pan fritter, fried in olive oil and sprinkled with sugar and sometimes a bit of cinnamon.  How simple and wonderful.  I can't wait to tell the cousins!

Katy Cardinale April 13, 2011 at 05:14 PM
I guess we don't have any grand or unique traditions. We just go to church and dinner with the extended family. I'm excited to see others comments about spring traditions. I'd like to start doing something to celebrate the season.
Debbi Hager Spiegel April 13, 2011 at 06:08 PM
I've come a long way! When I got engaged 16 year ago, I didn't even boil water. I've been making traditional Passover seders for the past dozen or so years for a minimum of 12 people. I follow all of my beloved Grandma's recipes. The table is set with an heirloom crochet holiday tablecloth and antique silver. We do an express version of the readings so we can eat! Everyone loves my matzoh ball soup, brisket and all of the trimings. The Passover saying is, "Next year we should be in Israel." I'm thinking maybe next year in someone else's house.
Maureen Rossi April 13, 2011 at 06:16 PM
I'm a big fan of Easter Pie and now am motivated to make some for this coming holiday, thanks Jenn! I guess we're more like the Cardinales - we don't really have any major traditions. Easter is more just our immediate family as opposed to the whole family at Christmas (aunts uncles, cousins, counsin's children). The one thing I have done since my kids were young was make a bunny cake - you bake a cake using two round cake pans. One round remains whole for the bunny's face. The second one, you cut two ears off the ends and the piece of cake left, when turned sideways becomes the bunny's bowtie to be used under the round face! Jellybeans make great eyes/nose and Twizzlers cut in strips make great wiskers. You can skip frosting and just put white coconut on face or frost and use food coloring and make some coconut pink for the ears. The kids get to decorate the bunny. Note: you need a big piece of cardboard because the bunny cake is big when assembled! Cover cardboard with tin-foil. EVERY kid loves the bunny cake!
Cindy April 14, 2011 at 01:31 AM
You know, just about any simple thing can become a family tradition. Boiling eggs for coloring will surely result in at least one cracked egg that has burst through the opening. If you dye it (as we always did as children) the color will run into the white. No one in the family would want to eat this egg. One year we dipped it into many colors to see just how weird it would look. My mom dubbed this the "Ugly Egg", and to encourage us to hunt for it she would tape a quarter to it. Don't laugh! That was a lot of candy store buying power in those days! Now, my kids find a dollar on it, and ask me if they can make several "Ugly Eggs." Of course, the answer is "NO!"
Debbie Danley April 21, 2011 at 02:48 PM
We don't have grand holiday plans either. The traditional coloring of the eggs, good food and family. My kids have a blast just spending the holiday with their little cousin and having fun. Since the school vacation is a little shorter this year we are staycationing. A day at Monster Golf, a trip to Boomers in Medford and tomorrow we are visiting the aquarium. With some much to do right around the corner it's great to soak it all up and provide the kids with some precious memories!

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