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January 15, 2016     Post-Gazette
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January 15, 2016

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PAGE 4 POST-GAZETTE, JANUARY 15, 2016 L'Anno Bello: A Year in Italian Folklore In Praise of January by Ally Di Censo Symynkywicz Perhaps there is no month more maligned in the cal- endar than January. The thrill of the holiday sea- son has faded into the past, while the cold temperatures and bitter winds remain. Frequent snowstorms and icy blasts interrupt the frigid, gray days, although we've been lucky so far this year! However, I would like to offer an appreciation of January, as I believe it func- tions as one of the most unique and invigorating months of the year. The New Year provides us all with a fresh start, urging us to create new beginnings and fo- cus on bettering ourselves and the community around us. The cold, quiet days prod us into reflection, giving us a time to ruminate on our achievements in the past year and our goals for the present. I find few things more relaxing than cuddling under a blanket with my hands wrapped around a mug of warm cinnamon tea, watching the snow drift delicately outside. Indeed, the silver-hued skies and hushed snowy landscapes of the month remind me that it is okay to take a break from the bustle of everyday life and settle into rejuvenating rest. Finally, January, in spite of its blustery weather and the ever- present snow, whispers to us with the hope and the promise of a spring to come. In Italy, two holidays reinforce this exciting sensation of the coming spring while also celebrating the par- ticular nature of January. On January 17th, Italiaxls will honor the feast day of St. Anthony the Abbot, or Sant'An- tonio Abate. This fourth-century Egyptian monk lived an ascetic life wandering through the wil- derness, helping to spread the concept of monasticism across the Western world. He has become the patron saint of domestic animals, and as such is an extremely popular saint among the agricultural communities of Italy. Several years ago, my father showed me a St. Anthony's procession on the Italian channel. Farmers led their horses, cows, goats and sheep across snow fields and winding medieval streets towards the village church, where they were blessed by the priest. It is fitting that this ritual honoring farm animals takes place in the middle of January, a time when those who work close to the land ready the earth for the next agricultural cycle. It is customary to begin plowing fields, organizing spring crops and preparing for the birthing and lactation of animals. My father remembers celebrating the eve of St. Anthony's feast by scouring the forest near his Abruzzi home for branches and kindling. His fellow townspeople would then build bonfires in the village square that illuminated the dark night with their hazy orange glow. Symbols of the returning sun, these St. An- thony's Fires offered a glimpse of the warm and bright days to come. La Festa di Sant' Antonio Abate reminds me to search the natural world around me for signs of the changing season. Whether it is a bird perched On a snowy tree or golden sunlight permeating later and later in the evening sky, the beauty of nature offers many clues of Mother Earth's resurgence from her winter nap. Another January holiday that promises spring occurs on January 2 ist. It is the feast day of St. Agnes, or la festa di Sant'Agnese in Italian. St. Agnes was a Roman virgin and martyr killed in the early fourth century who serves as the patron of girls and young women. In olden England, girls celebrated the eve of St. Agnes's Day with a variety of divination rituals that served to determine their future spouse. These folk traditions always remind me of the mysterious and magi- cal nature of January nights. On hushed evenings when the moon shines resplendently against the fallen snow, it seems as if anything can happen. As such, the customs of St. Agnes's No END PF', . NG 5 PRINCE STREET NORTH END * BOSTON, MA 02113 Owned and operated by Pamela Donnaruma, Publisher, Post-Gazette Quality Printing for all your Commercial and Personal Needs m COMPETITIVE PRICES Day evoke the peaceful and illusionary quality of winter, especially the mystical way in which it slowly gives way to spring. In Italy, on the other hand, la festa di Sant'Agnese is associated with sheep. This likely derives from the fact that the name Agnese sounds a lot like agnello, which is the Ital- ian word for lamb. Seasonally, this connection makes sense as well. Late January is when sheep begin birthing lambs and begin their lactation. Luke St. Anthony's Day, the feast of St. Agnes also commemorates the cyclical, seasonal changes occurring in the natural world. Every year on January 21 st, two lambs are brought to Rome to be blessed by the Pope. There- fore, St. Agnes's Day provides us with another opportunity to pay close attention to the signs of spring around us while still honoring the stillness of winter. Drinking a warm beverage while watching snowflakes fall and delighting in the longer days are both appropriate ways to celebrate this unique and tran- sitory holiday. January can certainly seem like a long month, with its cold temperatures, its frequent snowfalls and its lack of long holiday breaks. However, it can also be a very rewarding month, brimming with the distinctive pleasures of winter and with tantalizing hints of spring. It is a month of coziness, of seek- ing warmth in the company of friends and loved ones. It is a month of reflection, when our soul can become as peaceful as the freshly fallen snow. How- ever, it is also the month when I see stores laden with pastel spring fashions. It is the month when I get excited for the hearts and flowers of St. Valentine's Day, the hijinks of Carnival and the bright green shamrocks of St. Patrick's Day. The Italian feasts of St. Anthony the Abbot and St. Agnes similarly remind us of the dual nature of the month, of its wintry weather and its proximity to spring. As a bridge between two seasons, therefore, January can be a magical and refreshing month if we open our hearts to its charms. iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii ii !!i!! i iii i ii i iiiiii iii i i!!i!iii!iii! iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii! iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii i!!!! ii!!!ili!iZiiiiiiii ii! i! i i! ! i i i i!i i iiiiiiiiiii i i i iiiiiiiiiiiiiii iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii iiiiiiiiiiii ii 6ii i 7 227 892gZ Z i i!i iii iiiiiiiii ii i i iiiii! i!i i iZ ii !i i i !i ! ! iii!! !i!!! ! ! !i!ii!ii i!!!!i !! i !! ! i i!! ! !i i ! i i iiiii!iiii iiiiiiiiiii iii iiiiiiiiiiiiii! ii!!!iiiii iiii!i!i! !i i!!ii!ii i iii!ii iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!iiiiii!iii!i!!i iiii!i !i by Sal Giarratani / Another Part of My Past Bites the Dust The older one gets, the more you start checking the news- paper's obituary pages to see who just departed this life. My Ma read them religiously, she said, "to see if she had to wash clothes that morning." She used to get a good laugh, too, about how convenient it was that folks died in alpha- betical order. She also called the death notices, the Irish Sports Pages. After-all, isn't the best way to celebrate life by mock- ing the alternative. We all want to go to heaven, just not today, right? Recently, I saw that the great Frank Malzone, an All-Star third baseman, had passed away at 85-years-old. He was a six-time All-Star who played 11 seasons with the Red Sox (1955-65). He may have grown up in the Bronx as a Yankees fan, but made his name in Boston back in 1957 after hitting .292 with 103 RBIs as a 27-year-old rookie. He also was picked for the All-Star team, got his first Golden Glove at third and finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting. He played on only one better than .500 team in his time playing in Boston during a dry spell that I agonized through in my boy- hood up until 1967 and the "Im- possible Dream" team, which woke up Boston and all of New England from a team-induced coma. In is time, he was always the second-best third baseman in the A.L. behind the legendary Brooks Robinson of the Balti- more Orioles. Malzone, in his prime (age 27-34) averaged 26 doubles, 16 homers, 84 RBIs and a .281 average. He finished his career with the Angels in 1966. The Red Sox hired him in 1967 as a scout and instructor before moving him to the front office. He remained a member of the Red Sox in all but one of the last 69 years since signing as a free agent in 1947, the year before I was born. Frank Malzone was inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 1995. He should have been an easy pick for Cooperstown, but it never happened. He had better numbers than many who came after his playing days ended. He belongs in Cooper- stown and it's a crying shame that earned honor was denied this Red Sox legend. Back in the 50s, without Ted Williams and Frank Malzone, Tom Yawkey might have turned Fenway Park into a parking lot. Here's one aging baby boomer that both cherishes and longs for those long-ago days when life seemed so much more fun. We laughed more and life seemed much more fun. The world today seems so much like that never-ending Red Sox dry spell and there's no more Frank Malzone to make us feel better, eh? Sought by North End Brownie Troop / North End Brownie Troop 72123 is collecting once loved children's books to donate to those in need. Books can be dropped off at the following locations: Nazzaro Center, NE Library, NE Fire House, Eliot Upper and Lower Schools and St. John School. Donations will be accepted through January 30th. 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