This post is dedicated to all the Sicilian expats who, like me, are going back to their homeland for Christmas. If you’re not from Sicily but for some reasons you’re spending Jesus Day with a Sicilian family, read carefully and repeat after me: “I can do this!”
Here are the top 5 tips to survive Christmas in Sicily without any serious brain or physical damage.
1. Get belly-ready
Sicilian dinners require some serious belly training, and I’m not talking about abs. You’ve got to find that extra room in your stomach you never thought existed. Learn how to stretch your belly from the eating contest masters and you’ll be able to get through a ten course meal and an over-bearing gran.
2. Learn the fine art of juggling conversations at 120 decibels
As soon as people take their seats and the first starters arrive, the Christmas dining table will turn into a battlefield where everyone fights to the loudest word and the last bruschetta. One person will start shouting to the person sitting the farthest away at the table, and others will follow, until you’ll find that you’re part of 10 different conversations and nobody will let you finish one single sentence. Keep nodding and carry on.
3. Prepare your answers in advance
It doesn’t matter if you’ve been away one month or ten years, every time you come back you’ll have to answer the same questions before even thinking of starting a normal conversation.
What’s the weather like in London? Do you eat well in London? Have you lost weight? Have you gained weight? Is London REALLY expensive? Where do you live in London?… Is that close to where the queen lives??
Keep your anwers short and vague – ok, yes, perhaps, perhaps, yes, North London – and then ask what’s for dinner.
4. Avoid repeated questions
Gather as many people as possible in one place when answering the questions above, so you won’t have to repeat them ten times.
5. Avoid unwanted questions
Whether the question is about your wedding date or your plans forthe next ten years, there are many ways to drive unwanted attention away from you at the most convenient time. Here are some of my favourite techniques:
- The “WOW, these lasagne are really great!” technique, which will stir the conversation to how great Italian cuisine is as compared to those barbarian foreign foods.
- The shock effect – drop the “I’m pregnant” bomb and then say it was a joke before some elderly relatives die of heart attack. They’ll never remember what their question was.
- The political digression – bring up anything the Prime Minister has done over the past week and it will trigger an endless stream of moaning and a review of the past decades of bad political management from all Parties. Everybody will have a view and will shout it out loud, leaving you free to go.
- The field crasher – pay someone to crash your Christmas dinner at the right time, possibly naked. This is always a winner.
And now the cheesy bit: whatever your crazy family habits are, enjoy your time back home, eat like a pig and unleash the inner Sicilian in you. You’ll have the best time of your life!