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January 29, 2016

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PAGE 4 POST-GAZETTE, JANUARY 29, 2016 L'Anno Bello: A Year in Italian Folklore The Light of Spring by Ally Di Censo Symynkywicz A few days prior to writing this article, the Boston area experienced its first significant snowfall of the year. Snow- flakes fall furiously, like the inside of a snow globe shaken by an overenthusiastic child. Snow drifted on my windows, bathing the rooms in an eerie blue-gray light. Outside at night, I could hear the distant hum of the plows working steadily to clear the roads. On a day like that, spring seemed years -- make that light years -- away. However, as hard as it may be to believe, spring is certainly coming! Stores brim with sparkly hearts for Valen- tine's Day and lush green aisles of shamrocks for St. Patrick's Day. Winter coats, though we will still need to wear them for quite a while, get pushed to the clearance bins, and brightly colored skirts and bathing suits take their place. Four o'clock in the evening no longer means darkness, but rather the hazy beams of sunset. Even holidays now heralding the beginning of pring. As we enter into the mbnth of February, it is im- po-rtant to remember that the month begins with a holiday, prevalent in ancient Europe, which marks the commence- ment of the season. Known as Candlemas in modern day and Imbolc in the land of its Celtic origin, this feast wel- comes spring with light, fire and celebrations. Candlemas, which occurs on February 2n% honors the event of Jesus's Presentation at the temple by the Virgin Mary, which occurred forty days after his birth. The term Candlemas derives from the prevalent use of candles in the religious cer- emonies marking this feast, symbolizing the metaphorical "light" that Jesus brings to the world. The folkloristic origins of Candlemas, however, predate Christianity. The pagan Celts knew this holiday as Imbolc, a date which also functioned as the first day of spring. Some scholars theorize that the name Imbolc translates to "in the belly," and observed the lacta- tion of cattle and the birthing of lambs which occurs this time of the year. Indeed, ac- cording to traditional European customs, Candlemas functions as a decidedly spring holiday, laden with superstitions and folklore that set the tone 4or the season to come. Many of these superstitions, hailing from agricultural societies, call upon spectators to observe the weather in order to glean clues about the nature of the year's springtime. A sunny Candle- mas, it was said, presaged more winter weather to come, while a cloudy and chill day proclaimed an early spring. This is the root of Groundhog Day, the American holiday also cel- ebrated on February 2nd, whose traditions were brought over by European settlers in the nine- teenth century. These weather prognostications are further echoed in an Italian rhyme which declares: "Candelora col sole, tarde primavera, " meaning "sunny Candlemas, late spring." As such, Candlemas traditions inspire us to look forward to the signs of the upcoming season as our ancestors did, cherishing the sight of newborn lambs or delicate flower shoots peeking out from under the snow. Throughout Europe, modern visitors will find spring-like celebrations on Candlemas, many of which honor the ever- growing sun. In France, the traditional food of the day is the crepe, whose round shape and yellow hue resembles the sun. In Italy, various Candlemas, or Candelora, festivities dot the peninsula, often absorb- ing other religious holidays as well. Despite their differences, these feasts share the common elements of welcoming spring with characteristic light and hope. Residents of Catania in Sicily segue their Candelora fetes into the celebration of their patron saint, St. Agatha, whose feast day falls on Febru- ary 5m. Light displays illuminate the city streets, where people parade holding candles, statues and relics of Sant'Agata, and chefs display blessed loaves of bread and pastries in honor of the saint's status as protector of bakers. At Montevergine, in Campania, candlelit proces- Owned and operated by Pamela Donnaruma, Publisher, Post-Gazette Public Insurance Adjuster Since 1969 FOR ALL AUTO YOUR INSURANCE NEEDS 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 sions commemorate gay rights and offer prayers for tolerance. Candelora in Naples, on the other hand, means huge street parties replete with bonfires and colorful fireworks that blossom against the dark late- winter sky, symbolizing the more prevalent sunshine to come. The day after Candelora is important in Italy as well. It is the feast day of St. Blaise, or San Biagio, an Armenian bishop who became the patron saint of throat and neck-related illnesses after he saved a boy who was choking on a fish bone. My father always remembered walking to the small church on the outskirts of Sulmona on blustery February evenings when, after a service aglow with candlelights, the priest pressed two blessed candles against congregants' throats to ward off illnesses. These early February holidays, therefore, all feature light as a means of hope and a reminder of spring sunshine to come. This theme of light is so important that it maintains a huge role in the feast days of San Biagio and Sant'Agata, where the promise of spring is blended with healing powers (just as San Biagio protects against illnesses of the throat, Sant'Agata protects against maladies of the breast) to sym- bolize the seasonal purification of winter into spring. Folk customs and holidays in Europe welcome spring around this time of the year. They know that though a bitter chill still seeps through the air and crunchy snow blankets the ground, spring will soon arrive in its brilliant, sunny glory. Candlemas constantly looks forward to the springtime and heralds the triumphant return of the season with its emphasis on newborn animals and the warmth of candles. St. Blaise's Day and St. Agatha's Day also incorporate fire symbolism while encompassing rituals of purification -- a spiritual spring cleaning, if you will. Whenever we feel blue about the wintry weather outside, and whenever we feel that the cycle of cold will never end, we should look to the message of these holidays and behold the promise of spring. For when we are confident in our hearts that better days will come, our cheer and our hope will turn into forces so strong that no snowstorms can blow them away. 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 ROLEX ESTATE JEWELRY Bought & Sold Jewelers Exch. Bldg. k,.. ,Jim (617) 263-7766 i Get B g Results For more information, call 617-227-8929, by Sal Giarratani ;~;~"*-" ~ L " l I Feel Like I'm Living in a Reafity Show This Election Season The Establishment has gone bonkers. They can't figure out what is happening, or have any say over the way things seem to be pro- gressing. Who would have thought that both Bernie Sanders, the former Mayor of the Peoples Republic of Burlington, VT, the guy who honeymooned with his new bride in the Soviet Union, would have a good chance of taking down Hillary Clinton. This is the second time a funny thing happened along her road to coronation. Back in 2008, an unknown upstart named Obama beat her. He was young and she was stale. This time, it is a crusty old man named Bernie who might send her packing into permanent oblivion. The Democrats in power are doing all they can to rescue her, but even with "all the king's horses and all the king's men," she is looking like Humpty Dumpty all over again. Meanwhile, the ruling Republican elite can't figure things out. The world has gone upside down for them. They thought Donald Trump was a joke, but now the joke seems to be on them as he still leads the pack. Second place goes to Ted Cruz, and the GOP head honchos pretty much hate the idea of a President Cruz. Their guy, Jeb Bush, keeps spending more and more money and finds himself falling further and further behind in the polls. The other guy they could accept is Ohio Gov. John Kasich, but he isn't doing much better than Bush. The Democrats keep hiding Hillary with debates, few as they are, either on Saturday nights or against NFL football games. The Republicans are doing nothing but debates. With so many candidates debating, it is starting to get boring. Conservative talk radio can't figure things out with the GOP. Whenever I listen to Mark Levin, he sounds like the angriest host on conservative radio. He apparently loves Ted Cruz and has taken to calling other conservatives who question Cruz on his natural- born American status as delivering "stupid talk." After a while, I have to tune the radio volume down, but unfortunately the next night, there's Mark still doing stupid talk on on the "stupid talk." Over on the JeffKuhner Show, his audience has been going bon- kers over Trump vs. Cruz. All of a sudden, nobody thinks Trump is a conservative after all. I can only take so much of that chattering, then it's over to good music on AM 740 with Bob the Music Man. I like Trump but hardly view him as presidential. The same is true of Ted Cruz, and don't get me started on Hillary, who keeps getting rebranded. After all these years, we still don't know who Hillary Rodham Clinton really is. I saw her doing some rebranding recently on one of those "Yo Girlfriend" daytime talk shows trying to look cool, but coming across as Granny from the Beverly Hillbillies. I remain a registered Democrat and will probably be voting for Bernie Sanders out of a HiUary protest. If on November 8% the American people are faced with a Donald Trump - Hillary Clinton race, I will be going with Trump and hope to God that America doesn't self-destruct. My choice for president has been going back and forth between Marco Rubio, who I think needs more seasoning, and Gov.Chris Christie. I think maybe America does need a street-smart, smart &#*! Italian guy from New Jersey. The rest of the GOP pack, tell 'em' to go have a picnic with Lind- say Graham. You remember him, right? In a field of 13 candidates, he came in 144. As far as Martin O'MaUey goes, he's the Democratic version of Lindsay. As Donald Trump said, "when you are running for president and you are touting that you used to be the mayor of Baltimore, need I say more." I long for the old days when so many qualified people ran for president! What I really want to see is an end to this reality show I am starring in. I know I signed up with Boston Casting, but this is torture. No END Quality Printing for all your Commercial and Personal Needs m COMPETITIVE PRICES --