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June 21, 2013

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Page 4 POST-GAZETTE, JUNE 21,2013 Dreams of Midsummer Nights -" by Ally Di Censo The great author William It is also important to re- down rivers and interpret Shakespeare had it right member that the summer their future by analyzing the r--xK when he named one of his solstice not only forms the movement of the garlands, by Sal Glarratam most famous comedic plays A Midsummer Night's Dream. The nights that fall around the summer solstice have a hazy, illusory quality about them. The evening descends softly and twinkly, the peri- winkle blue sky framed by the pink and golden clouds around the horizon. School is out and the sensation of unbridled freedom and pos- sibility permeates the sticky summer nights. Fireflies be- gin to float through my back- yard, their bright green bulbs resembling delicate pixies. Yes, it is now summertime in Boston and many people celebrate these days as the start of summer vacation. However, the term midsum- mer, or the archaic word for the summer solstice, may lead to confusion for those used to our modern calendar -- isn't it the beginning of summer now, rather than the middle? The answer lies in the fact that people of pre- industrial European societ- ies counted the seasons based on agriculture and harvests. The holiday of St. John's Day, which occurs on June 24 th, a couple of days after the solstice, absorbed the folk traditions of Mid- summer and points to its importance as a turning point in the year. The customs that accompany St. John's Day, from Italy and else- where, demonstrate the bit- tersweet nature of this sum- mery feast. For old European cultures, summer began on May 1 st, or May Day, when livestock was brought to graze in summer pastures and ended on August i st, the harvest fes- tival of Lughnasadh and the commencement of fail. The summer solstice coincided at the midpoint between longest day of the year, but also the time after which the days grow progressively shorter. That is why I believe that it makes more sense to treat the summer solstice as the core rather than the start of summer -- it seems wrong that summer should begin just as the sun is fad- ing! Many old Midsummer traditions later moved to St. John's Day, the holiday that honors the birth of St. John the Baptist six months before Christmas. In Italy, the customs of St. John's Day commemo- rate both the decline of the sun and the magic which supposedly pervades the longest day of the year. On the eve of June 24 th, the fuochi di San Giovanni or St. John's fires, dot the countryside. These bonfires blaze from the top of hills, with the intention of mim- icking the luminosity of the sun and encouraging it to remain longer in the sky. The evening before St. John's Day also proved opportune for gathering herbs, which bristled with mystical prop- erties on this night. Young Italians would take these herbs home and use them for divination, particularly pertaining to romantic matters. All across Europe, people commemorate Midsummer and St. John's Day with ritu- als involving water, fire and vegetation. In the Scandina- vian countries, Midsummer is a major holiday to which as much attention is devoted as Christmas or Easter. There, people dance around Maypoles entwined in green- ery, build bonfires near lakes or rivers and settle down to feasts of seasonal foods like herring, potatoes Spain and Portugal mark St. John's Day with huge out- door carnivals, bonfires and gathering of herbs. Never a country to pass up a festival, Italy also holds its own St. John's Day celebrations. Since St. John the Baptist is the patron saint of Florence, Genoa and Turin, those cit- ies boast summer parties replete with fireworks dis- plays. My father still fondly remembers gathering le mele di San Giovanni, or St. John's apples, which are green apples so named because they flourish extremely early, around Midsummer. No mat- ter where one goes, these celebrations revel in the joy and abundance of high sum- mer. Even the United States enjoys a feast around this time marked by fireworks, family gatherings, water and warm-weather fun. It is called, of course, the Fourth of July. The true magic of St. John's Day, or Midsum- mer, is that it perfectly cap- tures the liberation and joy of the summertime, yet also includes a tinge of sadness. We know that after the sol- stice, the sun will shorten its reign in the sky. Soon, dark winter nights will come. However, the people of olden societies recognized that the year is a cycle and that soon the sun will be born again, in the bright glory of the win- ter solstice and its accompa- nying feasts like Christmas and Hanukkah. Every aspect of the year, dark or light, is important in its own way. Autumn and winter may bring darkness, but they also bring the bounty of the har- vest and a more communal, family-oriented way of liv- ing. We need endings in or- der to appreciate the begin- On June 11  at the Statehouse, there were hearings held by the Joint Committee on Public Health on proposed GMO label- ing. I attended and heard testimonies regarding proposed laws requiring the labeling of genetically engineered foods (GMOs). I was encouraged to attend by Michelle DeFronzo and I am glad I did. Need for Labeling by Michelle DeFronzo GE foods (Genetically Engi- neered or GMOs) are becom- ing more and more prevalent in our foods every year in- cluding baby food. Many of the popular kids' cereals, crackers and frozen entrees contain GE ingredients. Approximately 70 percent to 80 percent of processed foods available in U.S. gro- cery stores likely contain some genetically engineered (GE) materials. The safety of these foods is inadequately tested and many potential health concerns, such as the presence of allergens and toxins, may be over- looked under current test- ing protocols. Labeling GMOs has strong popular support. Ninety percent of Ameri- cans support labeling geneti- cally engineered foods. More than 50 other coun- tries already have GMO- labeling laws. More than 90 percent of soybeans and cotton and over 85 percent of field corn cultivated in the United States were geneti- cally modified. Nearly 75 percent of processed foods sold in grocery stores con- tain GMOS. As a result, more and more individuals are contracting GI problems, endocrine disruption and tumors including Latin American women whose diets include high amounts of cornT Biotechnology companies allow very little independent research on their patented crops and The Federal gov- ernment does not do safety testing on GMOs. The poten- tial long term risks to public health from genetically modified foods are currently unknown. Because there is scientific uncertainty, there is an even greater need for labeling to allow consumers to make informed choices. POST-GAZETTE EAST BOSTON SATELLITE OFFICE NOW OPEN MARIE MATARESE 35 Bennington Street, East Boston 617.227.8929 TUES. 10:00 A.M. - 3.00 P.M. THURS. 11:00 A.M.- 2:00 P.M. ACCEPTING Advertisements these tw dates00 hence' it and strawberries" In Russia' nings" I feel this way eve00 I I was known as Midsummer. girls float garlands of flowers time a school year comes General Advertisements * Sales and Rentals to a close: I miss my cur- Memorials * Legals TO--= -D S rent students terribly, but #1... IB i am buzzing with antici- ADVERTISING WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE pation over what adventures rer Ounce'__ 24K 781-286-CASH We Buy Diamonds, Gold and $ilver lewelr We Buy Gold and Silver Coins J J X 345 Broadway, Revere EXTRA SPENDING MONEY-- Hours lO-5:30 pm every day. Saturdays unlil 3:3O pm Reda,. 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 await during the vacation. So let's take the example of the St. John's Day tradi- tions and enjoy the long- est day of the year while it lasts. Then, let us be com- forted by the knowledge that everything is a cycle and let's never stop dreaming those midsummer nights away. Ally Di Censo is a Graduate Student in History at the Uni- versity of Massachusetts Bos- ton. She appreciates any com- ments and suggestions about Italian holidays and folklore at f 00_PIN_EL_LI "S_ FUNCTION FACILITY Please accept sincere condolences, from the Spinelli's family and staff. During this difficult time, we would like to offer our facility at a specially reduced price, for you, your family and friends. SERVED UPON ARRIVAL Coffee, Mini Danish Pastries and Tea Breads BUFFET LUNCHEON MENU Tossed Salad, Assorted Roils with Butter Chicken, Ziti and Broccoli Alfredo Eggplant Parmigiana Italian Sausages, Onions and Potatoes Above price does not include a 15% Administration Fee and a 7% Mass State Tax. 280 BENNINGTON STREET, EAST BOSTON, MA Telephone: 617-567-4499 J