Spring is here and with it comes the very Italian custom of visiting people in their homes. Italians love to socialize as the weather gets warmer, but there are a few rules of good conduct to follow if you are invited to a home for dinner in Italy.

First, remember to bring a small gift with you. Flowers or chocolates are a good choice, which shows your appreciation for the host.

If you bring roses for any occasion, make sure they’re not yellow! Yellow is the symbol for jealousy and you may offend your host. White or red roses are more appropriate and will be well-received.

If you bring a gift to a dinner or a party, don’t wrap it in dark colors. Always be sure to wrap it in light or brightly colored paper to show the joy you feel in celebrating the occasion. Dark colors on a gift kill the party mood!

Once you’ve finished your meal, it’s time for the famous Italian custom of “La Scarpetta”. You take a piece of bread and mop up all that delicious tomato sauce left on your plate. La scarpetta cleans the plate and lets your host know that you appreciated the meal. Now you’re sure to be invited back again!

Italian-American culture is not just the collection of customs you pick up from the larger society. Culture is primarily learned at home, especially from the women in a family. Next month, I would like to honor our mothers, step-mothers, aunts, and grandmothers, those dear women who gave us our first lessons in Italian culture. For the May meeting, I’m asking you to bring a picture of the woman who most influenced your Italian-American heritage. Put a sticky note on the photo with your name and her name and maybe a compliment you’d like to give her, such as Great Cook, Brave Immigrant, Family Peacemaker, etc. Let’s celebrate all of our moms this Mother’s Day.