Newspaper Archive of
Boston, Massachusetts
February 1, 2013     Post-Gazette
PAGE 4     (4 of 16 available)        PREVIOUS     NEXT      Full Size Image
PAGE 4     (4 of 16 available)        PREVIOUS     NEXT      Full Size Image
February 1, 2013

Newspaper Archive of Post-Gazette produced by SmallTownPapers, Inc.
Website © 2018. All content copyrighted. Copyright Information.     Terms Of Use.     Request Content Removal.

Page4 POST-GAZETTE, FEBRUARY 1,2013 L'Anno Bello: A Year in Italian Folklore A Case of Spring Cleaning by Ally Di Censo I sense the ground shift- ing below me, pulsing with a new energy. According to the Chinese lunar calendar, we will enter the Year of the Snake on February 10 th, and the meaning of this resonates within my bones. I was born in another Snake year, 1989, but lately I have been feeling more and more like a figurative version of the slithery reptile, dropping rusty scales of my past self as I scamper through the grass. Everything around me vibrates with newness: the start of a new semester in graduate school, the trans- ference of my job to a new location, the search for a new home with my fiance. Appropriately, these changes are taking place during February, a month ushering the crisp air and cautious life of early spring. February prevails as a month devoted to purification, to casting aside remnants of a woebe- gone past in favor for a hope- ful future. The Italian roots of the word February hint at its power of cleansing, as it derives from Februa, an ancient Roman festival of purification. While I relish in the new vibrancy February offers me, I am also pleased to discover that my urge to "spring clean" myself dur- ing this month stems from my Italian heritage. Italian customs and traditions fully embrace the opportunity to start anew in February, mak- ing the month an exciting window to the coming spring. My father often told me of a quaint ritual that formed a part of his childhood in the Abruzzi region of Italy. On February 3 rd, he walked through the chilly air to Mass at his local church, where the parish priest would then hold two crossed candles against the throats of the congregants and say a blessing. This was // Giomo di San Biagio, or St. Blaise's Day, honoring the patron saint of throat maladies. St. Blaise, an Armenian bishop, reportedly saved the life of a boy who had a fish- bone stuck in his throat, thus cementing his reputa- tion for healing neck-related illnesses. The church ritual of my father's boyhood meant to prevent the worshippers from acquiring any sort of throat illness in the future. According to author Helen Barolini in her book Festa, Italians eat hard biscuits on February 3 rd as yet another means to heal the throat. I believe that the throat blessing on St. Blaise's Day serves as an example of purification rites so promi- nent during February. The purging of illness from the body can also be seen in a theoretical light -- after all, February offers us the opportunities to cleanse our self from bad habits and dead-end situations, just as the candles and the bis- cuits brush away physical ailments. I think it is appro- priate, therefore, to view St. Blaise's Day as a time to plan what changes need to be made during the year and what resolutions would prove beneficial. In Catania, Sicily, il Giorno di Sant'Agata, or St. Agatha's Day, is another chance for a purification festival. The city explodes in a celebration of light and festivities that culminate on the saint's feast day, February 5 th. Huge candles and bonfires sparkle like tiny suns throughout the town, purging away the winter darkness and call- ing forth the clear skies of spring. Like St. Blaise, St. Agatha, a Sicilian mar- tyr, also serves a protector invoked against certain ill- nesses, in her case mala- dies of the breast. Finally, this holiday contains an extra layer of purification as Sicilian bakers have their breads and pastries , $/tl, T@D/ * $1OUU Per Ounce! 24K 781-286-CASH we Buy Diamonds, Gold and Silver lewelry We Buy Gold and Silver Coins J [ : BOX 345 Broadway, Revere sellgoldmass, corn Hours lO-5:30 pm every day. Saturdays until 3:30pro blessed during this feast day. Presumably, these co- mestibles are now imbued with powers of healing and may bring a much-needed amount of luck to those who eat them. I never knew that much about St. Agatha's Day, but now this celebra- tion fascinates me, with its interesting mixes of light and dark juxtaposition, femi- nine power, and traditional foods. It fits perfectly into the month of February as it strives to eliminate mala- dies, whether literal or figu- rative, as well as welcome the renewed energy and life of spring. When St. Agatha's Day ends, Italian citizens can look forward to other holidays that greet spring, from the raucousness of Car- nival to the self-reflection of Lent. This February, I am ex- cited to begin many new chapters in my life. I glance around me at the tropical colors decorating spring fashions, at the birds calling out amongst bare branches, at Valentine's Day choco- lates tempting me from store fashions and I realize that I am not alone in my zest for the coming days of warmth and light. February is a wonderful month of transition, where customs and folk traditions from around the world joyfully hug spring with celebrations that.emphasize purification. In order to enjoy spring, af- ter all, we must be cleansed of negative perceptions left behind from the winter: those moments of self-doubt and worry, those bad habits we vowed to drop on New Year's Day. I will take the cue from St. Blaise's Day and St. Valentine's Day and make this February a month of self-improvement and self-love. (Speaking of coming clean, I have a correction to make. In my last column, I wrote that Montevergine was in the re- gion of Catania, when I had meant to write that it was in the region of Campania. I had written "Catania" too many times in the preceding sen- tence and I guess it was still on my mind! Sorry!) NEW LOCATION 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 by Sal Giarratani  .... - Steven Spielberg's "'Lincoln" Shows "The Dream" which Remains Unfinished As I read a commentary in the Bay State Banner on the Lincoln movie by Steven Spielberg, I believe Marc Morial, who is president and CEO of the National Urban League, misses the main point of this great movie on the dilemma of President Abraham Lincoln, who was trying to end a deadly war and the deadly practice of human slavery. As the movie high- lighted, the choice facing him was between two great evils and he had to choose which to give first priority and which would immediately follow. None of us truly knows when Mr. Lincoln became anti-slavery in his view of American society, do we? Who helped shape his views? Who led him to the door which he then opened for himself?. We can only make assump- tions with no real guarantees of historical accuracy. Marc Morial questions why Spielberg forgot to make men- tion of Frederick Douglass, the "Great Orator" of aboli- tionism, in his movie pre- sentation. I also agree that the passage of the 13 th Amendment in 1865 was the work of far more than one man living inside the White House. The groundswell for emancipating slaves was years in the making. I agree that one of the most unsung heroes of 19 th century Amer- ica was Frederick Douglass. A man who escaped his bond- age and went on to be a great orator and writer in the cause of truly making the phase "All men are created equal" mean equality for all men. When he was once asked to explain what he meant by his fiery words, he stated, "What I ask for the Negro is not be- nevolence, not pity, not sym- pathy, but simply justice." Unfortunately, when our founders created this nation the proposition that slaves were less human and more property, stained those flow- ery words within Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of In- dependence. The knowledge lhat Jefferson owned slaves s did" many others of his ime didn't lessen the impor- [lance of his words. Sadly, it [look nearly 75 years to arrive ht the deeds that matched the words. We should not rank by importance who was responsible for the sea- change in the attitude of slavery. Eventually, it would have to go as a soci- etal practice and it went ooner than later thanks to 1;oth the encouragement of LDouglass and the forthright Lctions of Lincoln. Steven Spielberg did a r, novie, a great movie, an ward-winning movie, on the ourage of a President of the LlJnited States who took a cou- ,ageous stand for both his Ieneration and the genera- [ions that followed. I grew up in the '50s and '60s. I was only 17 years old when America celebrated the 100 th anniversary of the 13 th Amendment freeing the slaves. I understood the words of Douglass as I watched the TV news during the Civil Rights Movement. I under- stood what he wanted as I watched the dehumanizing of African Americans who were still kept in bondage from full American opportunity. Doug- lass believed in full economic and political equality regard- less of skin color. The fight for the 15  Amendment after Lincoln's death was as equally important as was the passage of the 13 th Amend- ment. We may never know how either Lincoln or Douglass felt about the right of women to vote and it would take another half-century until that would happen. I remember witnessing Martin Luther King, Jr., and his struggle for full equal- ity for all, a century after Frederick Douglass started speaking out for it. King did not have to sacrifice his life for a cause but he felt he must because that was his calling from God. Many Christians believe God puts us here for a reason. All of us. Some offer services in small and unrecognized ways. Others are called to speak out louder and address a much wider audience. Dr. King's life may have been brief in years but long in accomplishment. He gave up a life that could have been selfishly devoted to his family and to his local min- istry and took on the role of America's conscience. He was only 39 years old when a gunman took his life but his work carried on and is still important today. I would like to think that when Abraham Lincoln was fighting for the 13 t" Amend- ment, he could see into the future and into the times I grew up in. He could see that the road was long and full of bumps. He could see future sacrifices made for a cause he had come to believe in himself. All of us, generation to generation, are tied to one another. Life is a continuum. We pass on hopefully better than what we received at birth. As I look back on this recent movie I saw, I think about those debates on the floor of the White House where grown men were screaming at the idea that God created us all equal to each other. Many of them just couldn't fathom such an idea. Today, it seems some of us still can't and we real- ize that we must grow con- stantly as human beings and understand there are principles bigger than all of us combined. Rather than bad mouth Steven Spielberg for forget- ting Frederick Douglass, we should be thankful that he remembered the courage of Lincoln.