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June 20, 2014

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Page 4 POST-GAZETTE, JUNE 20, 2014 the height of summer, The Magical Nights of Midsummer by Ally Di Censo Symynkywicz  - ]!' There is a lovely, laidback ancient feast of Lughnasadh, intertwined with greenery,  .... sensation that accompanies a celebration of the first fruits building bonfires near rivers by Sal Giarr'atani as of the harvest and the com- and lakes, and sitting down mencement of fall. As such, the summer solstice fell in the midpoint of the start and end of the season and was as such known as Midsummer. When celebrating Midsum- mer, Europeans not only hon- ored the longest day of the year, but also the fact that after this date the daylight hours would slowly shorten. That is why I like to view the summer solstice as the middle rather than the begin- ning of the season -- it makes little sense to celebrate the start of summer right when the sun is diminishing in the sky! Several of the folk cus- toms surrounding Midsum- mer later moved to St. John's Day, the feast commemorat- ing the birth of St. John the Baptist six months before Christmas. In Italy, St. John's Day traditions symbolize both the decline of the sun after the solstice and the magic which supposedly pervades the longest day of the year. Visitors to the Italian coun- tryside might see fuochi di San Giovanni, or St. John's bonfires, blazing from the hills on the eve of his feast day. These fires mimic the intensity of the summer sun while also metaphorically imploring the sun to remain longer in the sky. Young Italians may also spend the eve of St. John's Day gather- ing herbs, which are infused with mystical properties on this unique and magical night. Old superstitions claim that these herbs work espe- cially well for divination prac- tices, particularly pertaining to romantic prospects. Indeed, all across Europe, people observe Midsummer and St. John's Day with rituals involving water, fire and greenery. In Scandinavia, Midsummer is one of the most significant holidays of the year, on par with Christ- mas and Easter. Scandina- vians celebrate this holiday by dancing around Maypoles tranquil as the hum of bees lazily floating around flowers on a sticky day. The aca- demic year winds to a close, and the joy of freedom and possibility rings through the halls of my school clear as any class bell. The days are sunny and humid, perfect for enjoy- ing a dripping frozen yogurt or a cold chai latte with ice clinking in the cup. However, more than the summer days, I am finding myself more attracted to the summer n/ghts. Around this time of the year, when the summer sol- stice approaches, the nights become imbued with a dream- like, illusory quality. The evening sky, now with a day- light that lasts so much longer, brims with beautiful shades of periwinkle, rose and gold. Fireflies dot the for- est near my house with their brilliant yellow light. Though these signs of summer may make it seem as if the sea- son is just beginning, it is im- portant to remember that the archaic word for the summer solstice was midsummer- which may lead to some con- fusion. In actuality, ancient European peoples used an agricultural rather than as- tronomical method of count- ing the seasons, and as such the solstice was considered the height of summer rather than the start. After Chris- tianity spread across Europe, the feast day of St. John the Baptist, which occurs a few days after the solstice on June 24 th, absorbed many Midsummer traditions. The folk customs of Midsummer and St. John's Day, in Italy and around Europe, empha- size the magic of summer nights and the bittersweet nature of the year's cycle. For olden Europeans, sum- mer started on May I st, or May Day, the holiday which marked the time to release livestock to graze in sum- mer pastures. It ended on August I st, known as the 00)00_PINELLIS UNCTION FACILITI 7 Specializing in the art of celebration Wedding, Anniversary, Quinceaera, Reunion, Birthday, Social and Corporate Events. Convenient location and valet parking makes Spinelli's East Boston the perfect location. We are dedicated to the highest level of service and professionalism to ensure the success of your special occasion. 280 Bennington Street, East Boston, MA Please Call 617-567-4499 for banquets brimming with seasonal ingredients like herring, potatoes and straw- berries. Girls in Russia and other countries in Eastern Europe float flower garlands down rivers and attempt to divine their future by inter- preting the movements of the garlands. In Spain and Portu- gal, St. John's Day is a huge summer feast replete with outdoor carnivals, bonfires and the gathering of herbs. Italians never pass up an op- portunity for a celebration, and as such St. John's Day is an important feast there as well. Since St. John is the patron saint of Florence, Genoa and Turin, these cit- ies hold festivals with street fairs and fireworks displays. Out in the countryside, people may gather le mele di San Giovanni, or St. John's apples -- as my father describes, these are small green apples so named because they ripen extremely early, around the time of the summer solstice. No matter where one visits in Europe, in fact, Midsum- mer celebrations will revel in the pleasure of warm sum- mer days and honor the im- portance of the sun in our lives. Even the United States has its own holiday where family gatherings, outdoor excursions, fireworks and water play an important role: the Fourth of July! Above all, Midsummer re- mains a bittersweet festival. Yes, it celebrates the sun at the height of its power, and the carefree days of summer. However, it also recognizes that the hours of sunlight will slowly start to decrease once this date is past. It is a nostalgic-tinged reminder of the truth behind the cliched expression that nothing lasts forever. Yet Midsummer and St. John's Day are not holi- days of sadness, rather of joy. They encourage people to live in the present by revel- ing in the longest day of the year while it lasts. They also emphasize the cyclical na- ture of the year, and how important this said nature is for appreciating every season. Autumn and winter, for ex- ample, may bring darkness, but they also bring the har- vest bounty of Mother Earth and cozy, communal feasts that elevate family. We know that though the sun may diminish after the summer solstice, it will be bom again in a blaze of glory on the win- ter solstice, honored by light- themed holidays like Christ- mas and Hanukkah. So let's celebrate Midsummer and St. John's Day by living in the present and spreading our arms towards the sunshine -- and let's make a promise to carry that optimism with us all year long. 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 MEMO TO WASHINGTON, DC: Cantor Gets Beaten by a Brat Republican What happened on Tues- day, June I0 th was big, big news for both liberal Demo- crats and the Republican elites who think everything is about D.C. Many Americans have been unhappy recently, especially after President Obama ig- nored a law he signed and traded off five top Taliban leaders for one quite inter- esting soldier who may have to eventually face a court martial for desertion in war time. Bad enough that Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl was traded for five of the worst prisoners at Gitmo but when criticism started getting aimed at Obama for doing what he did, he said I have nothing to apologize for. Folks were confused. People died cap- turing these top lieutenants and just to hand them back willingly for someone who abandoned his post made no sense to not just conserva- tives and Republicans, but liberal Democrats too. What happened on Tues- day, June 10  was an under- financed economic professor by the name of Dave Brat defeated the House Majority Leader, U.S. Rep. Eric Can- tor in the Virginia Primary. That wasn't supposed to happen. As late as that Tues- day evening, Cantor's folks were on Fox News glowing about Cantorls soon-to-be primary victory. However, a funny thing happened on his way to victory, it didn't happen. The little known college professor who was the Tea Party's choice beat Cantor by 12-points, 56 to 44 percent. I had heard Bowe on the Mark Levin Show several times recently. Levin is a big time conservative talk show host who believes that our constitution is imperiled by both the President and liberal Democrats who he believes have apparently for- gotten all the warnings that our founding fathers left for us about government grow- ing and liberty decreasing. Bowe's message was we have laws, and we have con- stitutional safeguards that need to be protected. The midterms are not going to be pretty for liberals in either party. The Tea Party is not a group, it is a philosophy about the gov- ernment. Washington, DC isn't the government. The real government and the real America is outside the beltway. As a Bostonian, I studied the Boston Tea Party as a student in college. That event in December 1773 wasn't simply about dumping tea into the harbor in protest over high taxes, it was about a government that was fail- ing its people. Our Revolutionary War was truly revolutionary be- cause it ended up creating a new kind of government where power was derived from the consent of the people. A democratic repub- lic was created in which all power was vested in the people. Our rights belonged to us at our birth and no rights were given us by our government. A revolu- tionary idea in 1775 and apparently still today by 21 st century statists that sound like King George Ill. Many conservatives like talk show host Mark Levin think we are already liv- ing in a post-constitutional America where a president thinks it is okay to do end- runs around Congress to get things done. I am an optimist, I believe the recent upset in Virginia means the people are still in charge. As Ben Franklin warned over 200 years ago, "We have a Republic if we can keep it." Most Americans want to keep it. All this is bad news for both Democrats and Repub- licans in Washington, DC. Have they forgotten their place in this Republic? All this is good news for the rest of us out here in America trying to survive governors who need to remember who sent them there in the first place. As Virginia goes, hope- fully, so goes Amerlcal 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