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January 16, 2015     Post-Gazette
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Page 4 POST-GAZETTE, JANUARY 16, 2015 Owned and operated by Pamela Donnaruma, Publisher, Post-Gazette $; January, a Time of Transition by Ally Di Censo Symynkywicz Perhaps there is no month magical nature of January more maligned in the calen- nights. On hushed evenings by Sal Gzarratam dar than January. The thrill of the holiday season has faded into the past, while the cold temperatures and bitter winds remain. Frequent snowstorms and icy blasts interrupt the frigid, gray days. 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 cre- ate new beginnings and focus 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 rejuve- nating rest. Finally, Jan- uary, in spite of its blust- ery weather and the ever- present snow, whispers to us with the hope and the prom- ise of a spring to come. In Italy, two holidays reinforce this exciting sensation of the coming spring while also celebrating the particular nature of January. On January 17 th, Italians will honor the feast day of St. Anthony the Abbot, or Sent' Antonio Abate. This fourth-century Egyptian monk lived an ascetic life wander- ing through the wilderness, helping to spread the con- cept of monasticism across the Western world. He has become the patron saint Of domestic animals, and as such is an extremely popu- lax saint among the agricul- tural 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 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 be- gin plowing fields, organizing spring crops and preparing for the birthing and lactation of animals. My father re- members 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. Anthony's Fires offered a glimpse of the warm and bright days to come. La Festa di Sent' Antonio Abate re- minds me to search the natural world around me for signs of the changing sea- son. 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 21 st. It is the feast day of St. Agnes, or la festa di Sant'Agnese in Ital- ian. St. Agnes was a Roman virgin and martyr killed in the early fourth century and as such serves as the pa- tron of girls and young women. In olden England, girls celebrated the eve of St. Agnes's Day with a variety of divination rituals that when the moon shines re- splendently against the fallen snow, it seems as if anything can happen. As such, the customs of St. Agnes's 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 asso- ciated with sheep. This likely derives from the fact that the name Agnese sounds a lot like agnello, which is the Italian word for lamb. Seasonally, this con- nection makes sense as well. Late January is when sheep begin birthing lambs and begin their lactation. Like St. Anthony's Day, the feast of St. Agnes also com- memorates the cyclical, sea- sonal changes occurring in the natural world. Every year on January 21 St, two Iambs are brought to Rome to be blessed by the Pope. There- fore, St. Agnes's Day pro- vides us with another oppor- tunity 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 transitory holiday. January can certainly seem like a long month, with its cold temperatures, its fre- quent snowfalls and its lack of long holiday breaks. How- ever, it can also be a very rewarding month, brimming with the distinctive plea- sures of winter and with tan- talizing 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. However, 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 high jinks of Carnival and the bright green shamrocks of St. Patrick's Day. The Ital- MARIO CUOMO Remembering the Legacy He Left Behind for Us "Mario Cuomo was the keynote speaker for our better angels." -- Governor Andrew Cuomo Most folks know me as being quite conservative, but my political philosophy is much deeper than words like "lib- eral" or "conservative." When I think back to my younger days as a political activists, it was politicians like Boston Mayor Ray Flynn and NY Governor Mario Cuomo who always came to mind. Today, older, I still see the examples of their public service as elected officials. Both seemed guided by a passion that went far beyond mere partisanship. Both aspired to higher goals -- making politics not just blue smoke and mirrors -- but making their public leadership about caring for people and making improvements in peoples' lives. Many liberals think of Mario Cuomo as St. Mario, but he was never such an entity. He had passion and strength and he had a positive attitude about government working in the peoples' best interests. When I think of Cuomo, I think of Hubert Humphrey and Bobby Kennedy who were all able to rise above the fray and get to the heart of the matters at hand. They didn't have time to sweat the small stuff, they cared about the next generation and where they would be thanks to good deci- sions made at the present. For these noble elected leaders, it was about yesterday, today and tomorrow. They understood the link between all time. Too often today, we have far lesser leaders getting elected to office who seem only able to see up to their next election. Fighting tooth and nail over stupid stuff is not what the citizenry expects of the leaders they chose. Whenever I see my friend Ray Flynn I know he really cared and still does for the people of Boston. I believe that was how Cuomo also lived both before, during and following his terms in office of Governor of the Empire State. I will always remember the words of Cuomo's keynote address to the delegates at the 1984 Democratic conven- tion in San Francisco when he talked about government's impact on the American people. He viewed government's role in a positive way believing that government served the people and that's what made America the most special place in the world. Sometimes that is what really matters and not the parti- san bickering of leaders who forgot the role they served in our democratic republic. Mario Cuomo, my friend, I will not forget you and the role you played for America in your time of public service. You did your job. What more can be asked. winding medieval streets served to determine their ian feasts of St. Anthony the towards thevillagechurch future spouse. These folk Abbot and St. Agnes similarly NORTH L ii trND  where they were blessed by traditions always remind reminds us of the dual the priest. It is fitting that me of the mysterious and nature of the month, of its wintry weather and its prox-PtNTING imity to spring. As a bridge between two seasons, there-  fore, January can be a magi- cal and refreshing month if 5 PRINCI= STFII=I=T. NORTH I=ND * BOSTON, MA 02113 we open our hearts to its c.ar.00 Since 1969 FOR ALL YOUR INSURANCE NEEDS RICHARD SETTIPANE Public Insurance Adjuster Experience makes the difference! 209 BROADWAY, REVERE, MA 02151 Tel. 781.284.1100 Fax 781.284.2200 Boston 617.523.3456 Free Parking Adjacent to Building Ally Di Censo Symynkywicz is a Graduate Student in Quality Printing History at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She for all your appreciates any comments and suggestions about Italian Commercial and Personal Needs holidays and folklore at adicenso89@gmail.com. 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