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January 13, 2017     Post-Gazette
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January 13, 2017

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PAGE 4 POST-GAZETFE,:JANUARY 13,'2017 11: ~f i i: Z ,o L'Anno BeUo: A Year in Italian. Folklore The blustery storm of this past weekend has left a mantel of pure-white snow around my neighborhood, burying my patio chairs and causing branches to bow meekly under its weight. The sky. is the gray of dirty cotton balls, with only the palest of afternoon sunlight breaking through the clouds. Yet while it may seem odd to think of spring in the midst of such wintry scenes, signs of the upcoming season also surround me. Department store shelves explode in hues of red and pink as they boast Valentine's Day decorations. The green, purple and yellow sugars from my Epiphany King Cake -- harbingers of the bright tones of spring-- still coat the dish of leftover slices. The sun appears for a longer time in the sky, illuminating the dripping icicles on a still evening. However, as much as I shiver in anticipation at these signs of spring, I am constantly reminded that winter persists. Cold temperatures and snowdrifts drive me inside warm jackets and sturdy boots. In-season Clementine's and lemons perfume the air with their tartness, while steaming cups of tea provide ultimate comfort. January is a month that follows the two-headed aspect of its namesake Janus, the ancient Roman god of transitions. After all, January encompasses both the frosty beauty of winter and the hope of the imminent spring, teaching us to appreciate both seasons at once. When one thinks of January, frigid temperatures often come to mind. I imagine days when the air feels like sharp pinpricks and I want nothing more than to curl up on the couch with a mug of steaming hot chocolate. January's gelid weather has even become etched into folklore -- European legend The Two Faces of January " 9 by Ally Di Censo SymYnkywicz marks January 13th, St. Hilary's Day (or il Giomo di San llario in Italian), as the coldest day of the year. However, January also gives me ample opportunities to celebrate, to revel in family gatherings where love and laughter form a shield against the arctic blasts outdoors. I have long associated January with parties, as a large number of family birthdays occur throughout the month: my brother's on the 8~, my best friend's on the 13th, my aunt's on the 14th, and my mother- in-law's on the 18th. These January birthday festivities contain all the cakes and gaiety one expects of parties, yet they feel more relaxed since they are now removed from the bustle of the holiday season. Indeed, January does provide us with a welcome respite from the excesses of the previous month. This January, I promise myself that I will focus on the pleasures of winter rather than bemoan the weather. I will binge-watch my favorite television shows while sipping creamy hot chocolate or perfectly spiced tea. I will snack on a juicy Clementine and bake up some goodies featuring seasonal citrus ingredients. I will let snowflakes melt on my tongue like I did when I was a child. Most of all, I hope that everyone will take advantage of January to enjoy the quiet treasures of the oft-maligned winter. However, as much as January remains firmly enveloped by the trappings of winter, it does intrigue us with soft whispers of spring. In Italy, no January holiday better introduces the coming spring than the Feast of St. Anthony the Abbot, or la Festa di Sant'Antonio Abate, which occurs'on the 17th of the month. Because this fourth- century hermit is the patron saint of domestic animals, Public Insurance Adjuster Since 1969 FOR ALL YOUR INSURANCE NEEDS AUTO * HOMEOWNERS * TENANTS COMMERCIAL Experience makes the difference 209 BROADWAY, REVERE, MA 02151 Tel. 781.284.1100 Fax 781;284.2200 Free Parking Adjacent to Building many Italians Celebrate his feast, day by honoring their pets qr, ff riving in an agrarian community, their livestock. In many areas, farmers bring their livestock to the local church for a blegsing. I remember watching one such ritual with my father on the Italian channel, my curiosity sparked by the lines of sheep, horses and cows winding their way through the cobbled streets of a medieval town towards the church, where a priest waited to bestow a benediction. This quaint festival reminds me of the nature which starts to blossom under the cold, snowy ground. The first tiny flower seeds are slowly budding beneath the ground, ready to wink hello to the world as the crocuses and snowdrops of February. Sheep begin the process of birthing lambs around this time as well. I know that sooner than I can expect, robins will be hopping among bare tree branches and small green sprouts will peek out of the dirt. In other parts of Italy, people light huge bonfires on the eve of St. Anthony's feast day. These bonfires light up the night sky with their bright orange blaze and warm the bodies and souls of all nearby, mimicking the sun's longer duration as winter cedes the way for spring. I sense the magic of/a Festa di Sant'Antonio Abate even here, whenever I look up at the pale January twilight and ponder the cycle of the year shifting beneath my feet. January can be the most exciting of months, bursting with the energy of two liminal seasons. It provides us with the perfect chance to reflect on the beauty and repose of winter, calling us into the tranquility of our homes. Sipping a mug of herbal tea while watching the snow drift, incorporating citrus fruits into desserts, and gathering with family and friends for joyous celebrations that can warm even the chilliest night are wonderful ways to enjoy the winter season. However, January also teaches us to remain forever hopeful for the promise of spring. This anticipation is evident in the Cupids and hearts that decorate store shelves, in the leisurely lengthening of days, and in the folkloristic festivals that honor animals and the natural world. January helps us become attuned to the changing course of the year, and if we always look for the wonders each season offers, we will be instilled with enough hope and optimism to weather the remainder of winter. Ally Di Censo Symynkywicz is a Graduate Student in History at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She appreciates any comments and suggestions about Italian holidays and folklore at adicenso89@gmail. com. : DIAMONDS '~ ROLEX ESTATE JEWELRY Bought & Sold Jewelers Exch. Bldg. ~,~ Jim (617) 263-7766 j by Sal Giarratani I-- I We Have an Emergency in Care Here, Everyone I recently read a page one sto- ry about the mentally ill waiting longer in ERs. Much of what was reported is very accurate, but I know from being a D.M.H. police officer for 28 years in Metro Boston, there were issues not brought up in the story that would paint a clearer picture as to what is really taking place inside emergency rooms, and how ERs are the wrong place for these folks to be in the first place. I had to watch mentally ill folks in those psych rooms set up in many emergency rooms over the years. When DMH police have to escort DMH clients to ERs for medical treat- ment, the wait times are often very long. Today, the Boston Emer- gency Services Team (BEST for short} does incredible work in clear-ing emergency rooms and finding beds, but the process is still much too slow for the client and the emergency room staff. Should anyone be surprised at the long waits, which I believe are much shorter than when I was a mental health assistant for DMH during the late '70s and early '80s? Now, places like the Mass General ER send psych patients over to the BEST evaluation site inside the nearby Lindemann Center, where either treatment plans or empty beds are found for these folks in distress. Most of the problems that existed before I retired in 2013 are still around today. It isn't easy to find empty psych beds, and insurance always plays a major role in this gridlock of services, and long delays. The BEST idea is working, but it needs more funding to do a better job. I can't believe politicians feign- i~g shock that psych .patients wait far too long for services in emergency room holding units; they have no excuse to be shocked. The sad situation of long waiting times was been the status quo for most of my 41 years of employment with the Mass. Department of Mental Health and apparently still is. Emergency rooms are not ap- propriate as a bus stop on the way to treatment for folks who are a danger to themselves or others. Emergency rooms are already very busy with all kinds of life and death medical issues. The very idea that a front page story on this chronic issue shows just how out of touch our elected officials on Beacon Hill actually are to this day. English High Graduates Celebrate 50th Reunion by Sal Giarratani Here are cousins L-R: Arthur Venuti and Henry "Hank" Venuti who both hail from East Boston. As a Boston English High School Class of 1966 graduate, I had been looking forward to my 50th reunion and things went even better than I had anticipated. Thirty- one members of the Class of '66 came together for the 50 reunion at the new site of the high school in Jamaica Plain. A dinner followed at the famous Doyle's Care on Washington Street. Current headmaster Ligia Noriega- Murphy welcomed all the graduates back to their alma mater.