Often, I sign my letters, emails and book inscriptions with “Tante belle cose.” English speakers might translate this is as “Many blessings” or “Best wishes.” I started doing this after being with my Zio Michele (Uncle Mike) in Italy. Every time we would part, he would kiss me twice and say, “Tante belle cose.”
Uncle Mike’s words were filled with so much that couldn’t be expressed: he wanted the best for me and the family in America, and we both were grateful to be together.
As the last surviving sibling of my grandmother, I was honored and blessed to know this kind, hard-working and loving man that always had a twinkle in his eye.
Five minutes ago, you knew nothing of Michele Iacono of Ischia, but now you do. That’s the power of traditions: we keep our loved ones’ stories alive and relevant to the next generation.
Aside from reviving those Sunday dinners, here are some other ways to keep the family flame burning:
- Celebrate someone’s onomastico (name day)—in Italy, your name day is like a second birthday, and who doesn’t like presents?
- For example, Saint John’s Day is June 24th. So, Uncle Johnny got some extra love that day. My father, Joe, made sure everyone knew when it was Saint Joseph’s Day! Not only is it a tradition to enjoy one of the delectable pastries of the day (zeppole di San Giuseppe), it’s Fathers’ Day in Italy. Tell the younger generation about your ancestor on his or her onomastico.
- Family Friday or Tradition Tuesday or…you get the idea!
- Find a photo from the past. Post it online or email it to your siblings, children, nieces and nephews with names, the date and the story behind the shot.
- Prepare grandma’s favorite recipe or use your dad’s coffee cup. What a great opportunity to tell the next generation about them.
- Create a video or scrapbook of your family’s history.
- Include maps, ship manifests, birth and marriage certificates, and—most important—photographs. It doesn’t have to be perfect; it just has to be done with love.
Discover or rediscover the happiness and the sense of being connected that comes from keeping the family flame of tradition alive!
Oh, and I wish you tante belle cose!