So today's my birthday and it's a national holiday in Italy: the Immacolata. I love the idea of never having to report to work on my birthday. (Of course this is one of the main reasons I decided to settle here, right?)
When I lived in the US as a child, my birthday was one of the most stressful days of the year. Not only did I have to attend school, but I also had to do homework, go to church to please my grandmother who was a devout Irish Catholic (where holy days require going to Mass) and have a birthday party, at least with family. I would end up exhausted from it all!
Fast forward. Now I am an adult and live in a country that is officially Catholic so the holy day dedicated to the Virgin Mary means: NO SCHOOL OR WORK.
Although it's raining and generally pretty miserable today, on this particular December 8th, I have decided to cheer myself up with a session of cooking chocolate chip cookies. I haven't eaten them in over 2 years. I'll use the chips brought by an American friend during her last trip to visit me. I will gorge on the cookies when they are baked today. Then I will take the rest to work tomorrow for my belated birthday celebration with colleagues.
In this country, as the "birthday girl", I have to offer something to others. It's basically the reverse of American tradition where everyone is supposed to do nice things for you. In this Italian case, I will bring cookies and a bottle of prosecco to open at the 11 o'clock school-day break. This is the tradition where I work. Either something sweet (pastries) or salty (pizzette, tramezzini) or both are offered and a brindisi is made together at that early hour.
I like to have the Italian colleagues taste American flavors. One year I took brownies, for example. Another year I took zucchini bread, flavored with cinnamon, an uncommon spice in Italian desserts.
No cake. Yes, cookies. Happy Birthday to me!