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Page 4 POST-GAZETTE, FEBRUARY 27, 2015 Reflection and Rejuvenation for Lent by Ally Dt Censo Symynkywicz / Lately it appears bine with beans and  ..... ' , as if everyone has a i pasta in hearty and case of spring fever. There can hardly be a mystery as to why. The repeated bliz- zards of the past few weeks have left days of staying shut in at home and Everest- sized snow banks in their wake. On the first warm day of the month, however, I sensed the ground changing beneath me. The sound of the snow melting soothed my ears like a gurgling stream, reminding me that spring is quickly approaching. As I went shopping with my mother, I noticed that the streets were teeming wilth people bustling about, full, of energy that often accompa- nies spring cleaning /nd shopping for the new season. This time of the year, when spring seems ever-closer on the horizon but the bitter chill of winter still lingers in the air, can afford with oppor- tunities to both reflect on our- selves and rejuvenate our lives in preparation for spring. Not surprisingly, the period of Lent, which holds purification and introspec- tion as its core tenets, fails during this time, a spiritual cleansing before Easter ar- rives. This deeply spiritual and contemplative set of days gives us the chance to renew our souls and focus on our well-being, just as the Earth must do before fully unleash- ing the pleasures of spring. Lent began this year on February 18 th, which was Ash Wednesday, This quiet holiday marked the com- mencement of the 40-day period prior to Easter, the most important feast in the Christian calendar and a celebration of new life. The emphasis of Lent has tradi- tionally focused on the quali- ties of reflection, prayer and charity, rites of soul purifi- cation that mimic the cycli- cal changes of Mother Earth as she prepares for spring. Historically, Lent has also included the practice, of fast- ing, a custom which also proves deeply aligned to the rhythms of the transitioning Earth. As winter slowly relin- quishes its grasp on the world, nature is just begin- ning to stir from its long slumber. Fruits and veg- etables are not readily avail- able for harvest, as aspara- gus and sweet peas of spring have yet to emerge from the Earth in large numbers. Meanwhile, the stocks of lemons and oranges from the winter dwindle away, a dis- tant memory. As such, the religious significance of Lent imbues itself with the dormancy of nature typical of the season. When my father and grandmothers were growing up in Italy, Lent, named la Quaresima in ref- erence to the 40 days, was a strict interval of harsh rules and severe austerity. The Lenten restrictions have since loosened up, but the emphasis on purification and self-improvement re- mains. According to a folk tradition, peopl e give some- thing up for Lent -- a bad habit, perhaps, or an unnec- essary luxury. It is also important to adopt a. good habit during Lent, such as charitable work. This sense of cleansing and re- newal allows us to enter a blossoming springtime with refreshed souls and inner happiness. Lent, along with its medi- tative and spiritual quali- ties, also boasts its own unique customs and tradi- tions. Most obviously, Lent hosts a number of specific foods in many cultures that characterize the season. Since meat has traditionally been forbidden on Fridays during Lent, many restau- rants have taken to selling fish sandwiches instead. Hot Cross Buns, or fruit-studded pastries marked with an icing Cross, also abound during this period -- I am es- pecially fond of the straw- berry ones from Panera. Ital- ians adapt to the culinary restrictions of Lent with creativity. Visitors to Italy during Lent will notice that markets brim with seafood, including the quintessential Lenten fish baccald, or cod. Winter root vege-tables such as potatoes and carrots com- INCOME TAX PREPARATION Financial Services Professional Tax Consultant Personal & Business Year Round Service M.P. & Co. TAX & FINANCIAL SERVICES GRACE PREVITE MAGOON, EA 617-569-0175 146 Maverick Street, East Boston, MA 02128 web site: www.mptaxfin.com e-mail: mptaxfin@aol.com ESTABLISHED IN 1938 CELEBRATING 76 YEARS IN BUSINESS I aromatic dishes of meatless minestrone. Pretzels, originally de-vised as a Len- ten specialty because they resemble some- one with arms crossed in prayer, are imagined in Italy as dough knots called taraUi. My grandmother's fen- nel seed-flecked taraUi makes my stomach rumble with hunger and thoughts of springtime! Even some Ital- ian desserts get a Lenten makeover. Pizza fritta, or fried dough sprinkled with sugar, is a simple yet delectable snack, while al- mond biscuits known as quaresimali are made espe- cially for the season, as their name suggests. Ital- ians may enjoy these treats during a charming festival that occurs on the fourth Sunday of Lent called Mezza- Quaresima (Mid-Lent). This feast honors the midway point of Lent and the rapid approach of joyful Easter with parades and parties remi- niscent of Carnival. With these traditions and cus- toms, Italians set Lent apart as a special time period while honoring the unique properties of the spiritual celebration. Lent is a wonderful time because it encourages both introspection and the profu- sion of cultural traditions. As winter melts into spring, na- ture begins to stir from its tranquil sleep, slowly bring- hag forth the crops of the sea- son. In the meantime, the fasting of Lent mirrors the austere period of nature, while also promoting the sense of purification and re- flection typical of spring rites. Italian Lent customs estab- lish la Quaresima as an in- terval of spirituality and folksy traditions, brimming with its own special food and practices. In short, the dual nature of Lent -- its empha- sis on both pensive reflective and rejuvenating renewal -- makes it the perfect ritual to carry us into spring. After all, the English word for Lent de- rives from the same root as "lengthen," a reference to the ever-increasing, ever- brilliant sun in the sky. So let us approach Lent with the appropriate sentiments of love, charity, and contempla- tion, and head forward into a lovely spring. Ally Di Censo Symynkywicz is a Graduate Student in History at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She appreciates any comments and suggestions about Italian holidays and folklore at adicenso89@gmail, com. f DIAMONDS ROLEX ESTATE JEWELRY Bought & Sold Jewelers Exch. Bldg. Jim (617) 263-7766 J TIME TO TALK ABOUT ANYTHING BUT OBAMA During this "Winter of He11" it is very easy to get pessimistic about things in- cluding the state of the world or country or anything -- even the snow. As I begin to write here, I look outside the window and it is snowing again. What else is new? This latest storm sounds tricky, snow-to-rain to freez- ing-snow. Temps on the rise, then time for a dip. Just an- other day this February. As I'm writing, I remem- ber listening to Michael Gra- ham before he headed to At- lanta. I know it can snow down there, but as sure as I am that peaches grow in Georgia, they never got over eight feet of snow in four weeks time. Remember how his show began? "This is not how it all ended. This is how it all began." I look out the window at the latest beginning. At this point in time I can't be worried about the trans- formation of America or cli- mate change or anything else. I just want to ge t home safely when I finish writing this column. I live in East Boston, now a neighborhood devoid of driveways for the most part, but I feel blessed -- I do have a driveway. I need to shovel it over and over again, but it is my drive- way space. With a driveway, I must be one of the One Percent in Eastie. The good thing about a win- ter of hellish snow, is you get to know your neighbors bet- ter and actually talk with them about the snow, of course. The Latino commu- nity over here is about 53 percent of the community. Sometimes I wonder how much assimilation is going on. However, it does seem bonds are being developed as we assimilate the snow week after week, inch after inch and foot after foot. Sometimes you'just need to relax taking one storm after another. The good thing is I love going over to Jevelli's in Day Square where I now have a favorite booth. I order my cheesebur- ger -- medium rare -- with steak fries. I chase it down with a good Irish coffee, made with Jamerson, mint and whipped cream. I've got- ten one there after three storms thus far and I guess counting. Maybe the storm I am now watching won't be too bad, but if the past is prologue, it probably will be ugly. My niece just returned from Cancun, Mexico and she said things were pretty rough down there too. One day she said the wind was so strong at the beach sending sand everywhere, she had to pick up her things and go to the hotel's pool for more sun. Somehow, it doesn't seem the same as winter in Bos- ton at the moment. Listen, I need to get home to find my shovel and get ready for what is to arrive in my driveway. Finally, stay positive, I am sure it will snow again! 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