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January 27, 2017

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PAGE 4 POST-GAZETTE, JANUARY 27, 2017 L'Anno Bello: A Year in Itah'an Folklore Lighting the Way to Spring by Ally Di Censo Symynkywicz January has gone by traditions vary across Ita- quicker than a windswept ly, eachhonors the arrival bySal Giarratani snowdrift. It seems that of spring and the theme Candlemas bursts with quaint customs and superstitions everywhere. European folk- lore states that a warm and sunny Candlemas portents harsh wintry weather, while a cold and blustery Candlemas promises an early s~aring. Im- migrants from Europe brought these traditions over to Ameri- ca, where they melded into the festival of Groundhog Day. Like Candlemas, Groundhog Day is also celebrated on February 2"d, and it further pays hom- age to the end of the hiberna- tion period for many animals. An Italian dictum repeats this well-known superstition, pro- claiming ~Candelora con sole, tarde primavera," or "sunny Candlemas, late spring." These practices speak to the uni- versal desire for spring and rebirth, whether it manifests in newborn lambs or candles flickering in the windowsills. In addition to functioning as a turning point between winter and spring, Candlemas also provides people with an opportunity for celebrations and feasting. Pancakes are the traditional dinner of choice in France, possibly because their round shape and golden color resemble the spring sun, which is now remaining for a longer time in the sky. Super- stition claims that a cook who can flip a pancake with one hand while turning a coin in the other will be blessed with luck. In Mexico, people eat ta- males on Candlemas, provided by the person who found the hidden bean in their Epipha- ny King Cake. Italians honor Candlemas, or CancleIora, with local festivities and regional customs. Though Candlemas just a short while ago, I was cheering the start of a New Year and pack- ing away the last Christ- mas decorations. This past month has been an unusual mixture of bit- ter cold spells followed by mild weather, of furiously falling snowflakes and pleasant days filled with the scent of newly-turned soil. I can sense the duel- ing seasons of winter and spring dancing around me, struggling to main- tain their individual grip over these transitional, changeable months. How- ever, February will soon arrive with its bevvy of festivals that decidedly welcome the spring. St. Val- entine's Day cuts through the snowy monotony in bursts of red and pink, ushering in the season of rebirth through im- ages of hearts and flowers and Cupids. The revelry of Mardi Gras, replete with mysteri- ous masks and colorful beads, promises to chase the ghosts of winter away. I look forward to the joy and gaiety of these holi- days. February starts, though, with a less recognized feast that introduces the month, and the season of spring as a whole, with powerful symbol- ism. This ancient, rustic holi- day is known as Candlemas, and its worldwide traditions evoke the spring with anticipa- tion and light. Candlemas, which occurs on February 2"d, commemorates the date on which the Virgin Mary presented Jesus at the temple, forty days after His birth. The name of the feast derives from the widespread usage of candles during the religious services marking this holiday, which symbolize the light that Jesus metaphori- cally brings to the world. How- ever, many of Candlemas's folk customs predate Christianity. The Celts celebrated February 1st as Imbolc, a festival her- alding the first day of spring. Imbolc, which some scholars theorize translates to "in the belly," honors the lactation of sheepand the beginning of the birthing season for lambs. This ancient Celtic holiday survives as St. Brigid's Day in modern Ireland, where people light candles, make Crosses out of vegetation, and visit holy wells. Indeed,-since it serves as a welcome precursor to spring, 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 of light breaking through the darkness. In the Sicilian city of Catania, Candelora festivals segue into parades held in honor of the town's patron saint, St. Agatha, where people make offerings of large candles that illumi- nate the dark late winter sky. The people of Monte- vergine, a village located in the southern region of Campagnia, organize candlelit processions which honor gay rights and pray for increased tolerance. Meanwhile, Ne- apolitans celebrate Can- delora with large street parties boasting torches and fireworks displays. Indeed, all throughout Ita- ly, a visitor will find homes, churches and town squares illuminated by candles or bon- fires on Candelora, the flames both providing warmth against the cold February air and reminding people of the light of the coming spring. Candle- mas always makes me think of the long walks I would take on my old college campus at the start of the spring semes- ter, propelled by the wind as I took note of the new buds adorning the otherwise bare tree branches. Nowadays, I bake orange cheesecakes on Candlemas, a seasonal recipe whose color and shape re- sembles mini sunbursts. How exciting it is to greet spring in all its myriad forms. As winter slowly melts into spring, we should all take a lesson from Candlemas and search for the beacons of light in our own lives. What are the symbolic candles that illumi- nate our way out of our person- al darkness? Which elements of our lives remind us that rebirth and hope are always near, even in the midst of a literal and metaphorical winter? To me, these "candles" include spending time with loved ones, the smell of baked goods waft- ing through my kitchen, hearty belly laughs, and warm sun- sets. These signs remind me that the world holds so much beauty and promise, even when all appears bleak. Candlemas teaches us to look for these sig- nals in nature as well: a frost- encrusted snowdrop flower, the flash of a robin in flight, a night lit with candles. When we hold on to the hope of spring and ap- preciate the moments our nat- ural world has to offer, we will always hold the beauty of each season inside us -- and that knowledge of Mother Earth's endurance will comfort us always. Ally Di Censo Symynkywicz is a Graduate Student in History at the University of Massachu- setts Boston. She appreciates any comments and suggestions about Italian holidays and folk- lore at i DIAMONDS 1 Fi'OLEX ESTATE JEWELRY Bought & Sold Jewelers Exch. Bldg. Jim (617) 263-7766 What is Happening to America Today? Quote to Note =There are no Democrats and no Repubficans, just Americans." -- Will Rodgers I recently watched C-Span as it rebroadcasted two presi- dential farewell addresses. The first was a grainy black and white President Dwight D. Eisenhower; a WWII war hero and a president who reigned over America in peacetime be- tween the Korean and Vietnam Wars. I.was 12 years old when I saw it live at the kitchen table with my dad back when I lived on East Springfield Street in Boston's South End. The other address that followed was by President Ronald Reagan in January 1989, as he prepared to leave office. This one in full Technicolor as they say. I was 40 years old when I watched this one by myself. When both ended, I thought of myself today as an ever-aging baby boomer. In Eisenhower's address, he talked about the world that our grandchildren would inherit and I was one of those grandchildren mentioned in his speech. Today I see a world that would have been unrecognizable to both Ike and my parents. Eight years ago, incoming President Obama promised a transfor- marion of America, and sadly I think it has happened. We are not the America we were in 1960 or 1989, and certainly not even that of 2008. Our Constitution is endan- gered, our democratic repub- lic under assault. Our Bill of Rights is being revised by those who oppose open debate and demand speech not to their liking be labeled as hate speech. Our founding fathers must be rolling over in their graves. We have always been a nation different from all others because here power is not at the top of the heap but down with the people. Or at least that's what it is supposed to be. President Donald Trump is now our president, a president of all the people. Yet many Dem- ocrats boycotted Washington on January 20th for his swearing in because they don't like him. Days before the event, U.S. Rep. John Lewis called Trump an "illegitimate president." That rhetoric was followed up by other such rhetoric from the likes of U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-CA and U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Winthrop. It is one thing to boycott a presidential State of the Union address, but another to boycott the peaceful transfer of power that happens on Inauguration Day. All those who boycotted truly don't understand what it means to be an American. Today on college campuses, students are blocking their ears from speech with which they disagree. They want safe spaces from all the micro=aggression out there criticizing them. The politically correct crowd are calling Trump and his sup- porters aU kinds of bad names like fascists, when in actuality they are the true fascists roam- ing the streets of America. Finally, much of the news media has slid over to the far left of the political spectrum. During the campaign, much of this crowd seemed to be an extension of the" Clinton for President media advisory group. There was little attempt to even hide their bias. It was there front and center. Tuesday, November 8% the United States of America was on the brink, but the people came through and the foregone con- clusion by the Democrats and their media allies went down the tubes and Donald Trump did the unthinkable. He won the presidency. Now is the time for no re- criminations against those who refuse to accept Trump as their president. He is. Now is the time to find a way to reach across America and bring people together again and make America one again. We are not the Divided States of America, we are the United States of America. America constantly gets transformed. It happened again on Election Day this past year. We can survive anything that comes at us. The Russians didn't elect Trump, the American people did, and now it is time to move forward and do all that we can to make America better than it already is. Trump isn't Obama, but he isn't Eisenhower or Rea- gan either. Trump is our 454 president and we all must pray that he succeeds in making America a better place than he found it on January 20% End of story. On to the future with hope. An old departed friend always told me to "Keep Punching" when he said good bye and I al- ways responded, "Keep on kee- pin' on." That is exactly what we have to do as Americans, "Keep punching and never give upI" j" t