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March 10, 2017     Post-Gazette
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March 10, 2017

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PAGE 4 POST-GAZETrE, MARCH 10, 2017 L 'Anno Bello: A Year in Italian Folklore Reflections of Lent by Ally Di Censo Symynkywicz We find ourselves in the midst of the changeable month of March, and spring seems pal- pably in our grasp. Sparkling shamrocks and mischievous leprechauns adorn doorways and windows across my town, reminding me of the upcoming St. Patrick's Day festivities. Robins herald the arrival of a new season with their blazing red breasts as they hop about on the slowly-budding tree branches. However, though the signs of spring prove plentiful, other aspects of nature tell us that we are still in a period of transition, when the weather remains as unpredictable as the March winds. Clumps of old snow, stubborn to melt, cling to the ground under trees or on the edges of parldng lots, while an occasional slate-gray sky threatens additional win- try weather. Bursts of frigid air still send us scrambling for heavy coats, scarves and gloves. In supermarkets, ag- ricultural produce comes to a' virtual standstill, as the lemons and oranges of winter dwindle before they can be replaced by the tender greens and herbs of spring. During this time of the year, when winter reluctantly yields its hold on spring, folk customs around the world honor the changing of the sea- sons. For example, we are now in the period of Lent, an interval which boasts profound religious significance but also cultural and seasonal importance. Lent mirrors the changes occurring in the natural world and guides us towards spring with a sense of promise, hope and renewal. This year, Lent began on March Ist, Ash Wednesday. It covers a 40-day period prior to Easter, the most important feast in the Christian calendar. These days serve to prepare the faithful for Easter through purification rituals such as prayer, fasting, charity and self-reflection. The timing of Lent is highly symbolic, as it occurs during a seemingly barren season in which nature also purifies herself after a long winter, emerging ready for the rebirth of spring. In order to appreciate the glory of Easter and spring, we need to embrace tlie seasonal transition with contemplation and introspec- tion, an opportunity which Lent generously affords us. When my father was a child in Italy, Lent, or la Querisma, functioned as a somber and austere period, matching the chili sterility of nature. Though the rules have relaxed since then, the rite of purification remains the crux of Lenten customs in Italy and beyond. This explains the popular practice of giving up a bad habit or an indulgence for Lent, a tradition which is not mentioned in the Bible, but nevertheless fits seamlessl)~ with the folkloric cleansing rituals of the season. The pur- pose of this Lenten abstinence should not be deprivation, but rather a chance to examine our values or priorities and im- prove ourselves. This Lent, for example, I gave up my beloved iced chai lattes in order that I may stretch out of my comfort zone and discover new flavors. The promise of Lent, however, stands in the fact that all of our hard work will be rewarded with a beautiful springtime. After all, the English term for Lent shares the same root with the word lengthen, referring to the growth of daylight in the spring sky! Lent means more than saying goodbye to your favorite treat, though. In Italy, this medita- tive time inspired the creation of unique folk traditions and customs that would come to define the tapestry of pre-Easter celebrations. The most famous Lenten rule involves the forbid- ding of meat on Fridays; so Ital- ian cooks devised many fish and vegetable dishes for these days. A visitor to Italy during Lent will notice farmers' markets bursting with fresh fish and baccald (dried cod), along with the first spring vegetables from which can be crafted a nour- ishing minestrone. Italians also snack on quaresimali, or almond biscuits, which, as the name suggests, are made espe- cially for Lent. According to the author Helen Barolini in her book Festa, a simple and cus- tomary Italian Lenten dessert is pizza frita -- fried dough sprin- kled with sugar. My mother and grandmother would frequently whip up this dessert when I was younger, much to my pleasure, though I only recently learned of its Lenten connotations. The people in Italy also celebrate the fourth Sunday of Lent as Mezza Quaresima, or mid-Lent. These festivities mark the halfway point of Lent and honor the imminent arrival of Easter, and many Italian towns and cities hold parties and processions reminiscent of Carnival. Of course, due to the self-reflection and sacrifice that accompa- nies Lent, it is important to remember that giving is just as powerful as abstaining. People in Italy and around the world commemorate Lent with char- ity and community service, and truly there is no better way to spread the light of spring than by helping others. Though the checkered March weather makes it appear as if winter will never quite lose its grasp on spring, holidays like Lent skilKully guide us in managing this transition and welcoming a new season. Now that the luxurious chocolates of St. Valentine's Day and the raucous Mardi Gras decora- tions are swept away, the time proves right for purification and introspection. The rites of Lent, replete with their emphasis on self-improvement and reflec- tion, echo the regeneration of nature as the vernal equinox, and later Easter, approach. Lent is a time to do good deeds, to ruminate on the successes and challenges of the past year, and to cleanse yourself of negative emotions and dis- tractions prior to the triumph and rejuvenation of spring. Significantly, Lent is a season of hope hope for the promise of Easter and hope for the return of the spring sun. Nature will reawaken, the sun will resplen- dently shine, and the wheel of the year will roll on, carrying with us through life's treasures. 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 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 by Sal Giarratani t This is Why I Like what Edward Snowden Exposed I was shocked, but hardly surprised, to hear the accusa- tions concerning the possible bugging of the Trump Tower through alleged wiretapping by the NSA during the presidential campaign. If these news reports turn out to be factually correct, we have indeed moved into the security state of George OrweU's 1984. Trump called such an act, if true, to be "Terrible ... This is McCarthyism." The Democrats would have Americans believe this is a crazy theory from an unhinged tweeting president." However, considering that under Obama, the Justice Department secretly subpoenaed the private phone records of Associated Press reporters and Fox News reporter James Rosen, Trump's tweet doesn't seem that far- fetched, does it? A spokesperson for former President Obama has stated, Neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false.~ According to Breitbart News, the Justice Department and FBI requested a court order under the Foreign Intelligence Surveil- lance Act (FISA) to eavesdrop on Trump. According to the news story, the first request to the FISA court was denied, but the FBI tried again with a narrower FISA request and it was granted. Nothing illicit reportedly was ever found. The Obama spokesman did not address the possibility that the Justice Department surveyed Trump or any of his people. Now there is a real ques- tion out there. Has someone in the government being spying on Trump and leaking secret information over to the lapdog liberal media? If this is, indeed, what has happened, it is far worse than Watergate or Attorney General Jeff Sessions testimony during his confirmation hearing. If this reported allegation turns out to be true, it should make liberals, conservatives, Democrats, and Republicans alike more than a bit upset over the misuse of those Post 9/I I safeguards put into place to protect the American people. One need not be a fan of Edward Snowden to be upset. If true, forget about anything the Trump people might have done in com- municating with the Russians. While the Democrats continue to attack Trump in an attempt to discredit him, they have found some Republicans like U.S. Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham as allies. Graham should be far more concerned about any misuse of the FISA court than Trump and the Russian ambassador. Hopefully, the liberal media will do its job and investigate these allegations and show the American people that they are more than the purveyors of fake news. EAST BOSTON "K" TRUST 2017 College Scholarships The East Boston "K" Trust is now accepting college scholarship applications from qualified high school seniors. Applications are accepted from all high school seniors who are East Boston residents (one year minimum) regardless of where they attend high school. The only residency exception is for seniors who are members of the Key Club of East Boston High School. Scholar- ships are awarded to students based on scholastic achievement, community involvement, and financial need. Applications with complete instructions are available at all area high schools (please see Guidance Counselor for an application). Applications are also available at the EB Social Centers, Room 103, 68 Central Square in East Boston. All applications must be completed and submitted by Friday, March 31, 2017 to: East Boston K-Trust, ATTN: Marisa Di Pietro, East Boston Social Centers, 68 Central Square, East Boston, MA 02128. Applicants will be interviewed at Spinelli's in East Boston on Wednesday, April 12th, at 5:30 pro. Scholarship winners will be honored during a special East Boston Kiwanis and East Boston "K" Trust Scholarship Dinner on Tuesday, May 9, 2017, at 6:00 pm at Spinelli's in East Boston. RSVP's are required. For more information, contact Marisa Di Pietro, mclipietrot~bsoc. org or 617-569-3221 ext. 107.