I had the opportunity this past week to attend the National Italian American Foundation’s (NIAF) annual New York City Gala. NIAF has been a big supporter of The Italian American Podcast since the beginning, and Dolores and I are both proud members of NIAF.
I am never sure what to expect at events like this. Will they be crowded or rushed? Will you really get to connect with people among such a large crowd? Will the Italian American spirit be evident throughout the night?
The answers to these questions for me, this night were yes, yes, and yes.
Let’s be honest, there are some things about being Italian American that can be overwhelming, like big, loud family gatherings, or everyone in the family wanting to know what everyone else is doing, all the time.
That being said, the tradeoff is that there are many things that are amazingly warm about growing up Italian American, like strong family connections, traditions like Sunday dinner, and holiday traditions that you remember forever.
One of the evening’s honorees, and past guest on The Italian American Podcast, Rossella Rago, stated in her acceptance speech that she remembered when growing up that her problems always became her family’s problems. This shows the strength of the Italian American family, la famiglia.
Another honoree, Anthony Cammarata, Jr., reflected on his Sundays as a child, which were spent starting the day at church and then going to his grandparents for a wonderful meal and time with family.
Honoree Vincent A. Cino said that his parents cooked soup every Monday night, at which time the family would gather, and the tradition lasted until just a few years ago when his father passed away.
As I grow older and have three kids of my own, I am seeing the value of these traditions in my own parenting style and how difficult it can be at times for my children to accept.
For example, my oldest daughter, 10 years old, is always looking to go to her friends for dinner or leave the dinner table early. No way. We all eat together (insieme), and we talk at the table about our day, then you can visit your friends.
When one of my kids has a problem of any kind, I try to send the message that “Your brother’s problem is all of our problem.” That’s the way Italian American families operate, there is no “I” in our version of family.
My point here is that attending these community events like the NIAF Gala serve to remind us that we aren’t the only ones living these traditions and trying to pass these values down. There are millions of other Italian Americans doing it.
This is important, because in a world where it is becoming easy for traditions and families to be more fragmented, we can find strength in numbers. That strength can help to reinforce our values and keep our traditions alive.
Thank you NIAF for once again reminding me why we gather.
Prima la famiglia.
Co-Host of The Italian American Experience