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August 9, 2013

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Page 4 POST-GAZETTE,'AUGUST 9, 2013 L'Anno Bello: A Year in Italian Folklore The Festivities of August by Ally Di Censo Symynkywicz August has always been one of my favorite months because it brims with a sense of transition. As I sit down writing this article, a cool breeze makes the trees sing outside my window, reminding me of crisp Sep- tember mornings. However, I also take advantage of the these warm days to enjoy my last few weeks of summer vacation, going out for treats of frozen yogurt and wearing dainty sundresses. August is a time of harvest, of golden sheaves of wheat blowing in the fields, of farm stands bursting with abundant pro- duce. This month reminds me of an anci.ent bridge, linking the mellow, pleasant days of summer to the rhythmic and glowing days of fall. In Italy, August is a month so special that people treat it as a time to be set apart, a period of relaxation while also honoring the Mother Earth. For Italians, August undoubtedly means the holiday of Ferragosto, a feast that has come to define Italian summers. A few years ago, my family took a trip to Italy that spanned the end of July and the beginning of August. Once August hit, the Italian cities practically became deserted by everyone except tourists and those working in businesses catering to visitors. Shops closed, time slowed down. I have a dis- tinct memory in my mind Ferragosto, a lovely summer holiday where Italians take weeks off to visit the beach or mountains. An aura of festivity fills the air as Ital- ians leisurely gather in the streets for evening strolls, chats, and parties. Commu- nal meals are a staple of Ferragosto, and tables glow with Italian harvest foods like tomatoes, zucchinis, herbs, and -- my dad's favor- ite -- figs. Ferragosto has a deep-rooted history in Italian culture. The name derives from feriae Augusti, or the Feasts of Augustus, as this was originally an ancient Roman holiday implemented by the Emperor Augustus as a means to celebrate his reign. The holiday of Fer- ragosto falls on August 15a, though Italians typically take some time off before or after that date as part of the vacation. Indeed, it is significant that Ferragosto occurs on August 15th, because that is the date of another impor- tant holiday: the Feast of the Assumption, celebrating the Virgin Mary's ascent into Heaven. Many Italian cities celebrate the Assump- tion, where it is known as L'Assunzione, with proces- sions and parades bearing the statue of the Virgin Mary. The medieval city of Siena hosts the second version of its famous horse race, the Palio, during this time (the first race is held in July). nians bring their grape harvest to be blessed on the Sunday closest to the Assumption. In Poland, the Virgin of the Assumption is known as the Blessed Mother of the Herbs, and people bring bunches of herbs to be blessed at church, then place them around the house for protection. Wher- ever it is celebrated, the Feast of the Assumption draws upon the power of the August harvest, providing a spiritual and physical outlet for the desire of an abundant autumn. Italians recognize the in- herent benefit of setting time apart for rest, relax- ation and observance of the natural world. Ferragosto not only provides people with the opportunity to leave the stress and bustle of the everyday world behind for a few days, allowing them to come back more refreshed and ready to face these prob- lems with a new perspec- tive, but also honors the harvest. The Feast of the Assumption is another holi- day that commemorates the bountiful nature of August. When Mother Earth provides fruits for sustenance, it is important to show gratitude. The holidays of August brim with a certain joy and thank- fulness for the abundance of the Earth, the opportunities to be with friends and fami- lies, and the pleasures of two by Sal Giarratani Start Every Day Full of Life This past weekend I saw a back page advertisement for Quaker, the cereal makers. They have a new slogan, "Start every day full of LIFE," as in Life cereal. Remember back in the '70s when Mikey would eat anything? Well, now the company wants us all to Quaker Up. I still remember oatmeal when I think Quaker and that Quaker guy with the funny looking hat and white hair. Back as a kid, my mother had to almost force feed my brother and me into eating oatmeal. We hated it but mom said it was good for us. I buried my bowl in milk. Here I am today looking forward to oatmeal for break- fast. I now see it as a treat. Maybe, my mother was really on to something back when I was 5 years old. To- day, I am a retired guy who can have whatever I wish for breakfast and every morning after my walk at the track, I end up at the Elite and ordering my bowl of oatmeal still with plenty of milk in it. Today, I am sixty years removed from being five years old, but I wake up daily when I please. No more school and since April 30th, no more work either. Retire- ment is actually much more fun than I anticipated. I fe,el like a kid again. Doing what I want when I want. I am still probably on a retirement high and surely as Labor Day approaches, I will probably look for a part-time job to keep from going crazy or driving everyone else crazy. I liked that ad line, "Start every day full of life." You know what they say; the best thing about waking up is actually waking up. Once up, you begin thinking about your day. Then, if you are me, it is time to feed the cat who starts jumping all over me until I do. If it is summer, it is deci- sion time. Where do I exer- cise and do my track. I have three favorite tracks to choose from so as not to get bored. If the day is sunny then it is beach time. I also have three beaches to choose from too. Then, there's the pool over in the North End with all the pretty sun- bathers. Decisions, deci- sions, decisions. I am full of life or so say many of my friends. I al- ways surprise people with some statement about poli- tics. I like needling my liberal friends. Everyone knows I am a writer with plenty of opinions. I like it ' (Continued on Page 6) of wanting to go see Star Wars, thinking it would be funny to experience the film dubbed in Italian, only to find all the theaters closed. This was the beginning of Since August is a month of agricultural abundance, the Feast of the Assumption has become associated with harvest festivals in Italy and around the world. 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