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December 12, 2014     Post-Gazette
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December 12, 2014

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Page4 POST-GAZE'I-rE, DECEMBER 12, 2014 L'Anno BeUo: A Year in Italian Folklore I Embracing the Celebrations of Light by Ally Di Censo Symynkywicz Is there a Christmas sym- pose Greek culture and reli- bol more powerful and life-af- gion on the Jews. When the by Sal Giarratani firming than the light? Ev- Holy Temple in Jerusalem erywhere I turn this season, different lights glow in the air around me, each providing a distinctive sensation of the holiday season. When I see the multicolored lights strung around the bushes in the Hilliard's near my home, playfully blinking at me with their bright hues of red and green and blue, I am filled with a childlike zest for Christmas. These lights re- mind me of old-fashioned toys and candy canes, chocolate treats and wrapping paper. The golden lights that drip off ceilings are more elegant, reminiscent of a candle's warm heart and the gener- osity that accompanies the holidays. After all, a candle glowing in the window has long been a sign of hospital- ity and welcome. Meanwhile, the icy blue lights that adorn trees in some town squares remind me of quiet and snowy winter evenings, as sparkling as Elsa's palace in Frozen. Indeed, lights do form a significant aspect of the Christmas season, serving both a religious and symbolic purpose. Religiously, these candles signify the light Jesus brought upon the world at His birth on Christmas. Symbolically, the lights brighten the darkest nights of the year and celebrate the return of the sun after the winter solstice. Two holidays which occur this week, St. Lucy's Day and Hanukkah, incorporate lights as central features of their celebrations, spreading warmth and cheer into the chilly wintry air. St. Lucy's Day, one of my favorite feastsl occurs on De- cember 13th. Known as la Festa di Santa Lucia in Ital- ian, this holiday honors a fourth-century martyr from Syracuse, Sicily. Italians cel- ebrate St. Lucy in varying ways depending on the re- gion. According to a Sicilian legend, St. Lucy once allevi- ated a famine by sending ships bearing wheat into a port. To commemorate this event, some Sicilians pre- pare cuccia, or a porridge of boiled wheat berries that can be served with honey and ricotta, on the feast day. In the northern areas of Italy, such as Veneto and Friuli, St. Lucy serves as a gift-bringer. She distributes small gifts to children on the eve of her fes- tival, accompanied by her donkey and by her assistant Castaldo. The name Lucia stems from the same Latin root as the word light, mak- ing her the perfect saint for festivities which take place on one of the darkest nights of the year. Before the calen- dar reform, December 13th was the winter solstice, a vestige which remains in the Italian proverb Santa Lucia, il giorno pift corto che ci sia ("St. Lucy's Day is the short- est day there is"). Her asso- ciation with light also ex- plains why St. Lucy is such a popular saint in the Scandi- navian countries, where win- ter darkness can last for the better part of the day. Candlelit St. Lucy's Day pro- cessions occur along the streets of major Scandina- vian cities, featuring lots of girls dressed like St. Lucy and boys wearing gingerbread men costumes, or conical hats decorated with stars. On the feast of St. Lucy, a daugh- ter in the family wakes up early and dresses in a white robe and a red sash. Sporting a wreath of electric candles on her head, she greets the family at breakfast by serv- ing them hot chocolate and lussekatter, or raisin buns spiced with saffron, which infuses a cheerful yellow shade. On St. Lucy's Day, I honor the light breaking through the darkness by bak- ing sweet potato biscuits, which emerge warm from the oven with a beautiful sunny glow. Hanukkah, a Jewish holi- day which begins on Decem- ber 16a this year, also incor- porates light into its festivi- ties. Hanukkah celebrates the over two thousand-year- old victory of a Jewish patri- otic group known as the Maccabees over the Seleucid Army, which wanted to im- Owned and operated by Pamela Donnaruma, Publisher, Post-Gazette Since 1969 FOR ALL YOUR INSURANCE NEEDS RICHARD SETTIPANE Public Insurance Adjuster Experience makes the difference! 209 BROADWAY, REVERE, MA 02151 Tel. 781.284.1100 Fax 781.284.2200 Boston 617.523.3456 Free Parking Adjacent to Building was rededicated during the revolt, there was only a small supply of oil to light the sa- cred menorah, or candelabra, in the Temple. Miraculously, however, the oil lasted for eight, days, which forms the basis of Hanukkah as an eight-day celebration. Fami- lies honor the miracle of the oil by lighting one candle on their own menorahs every night of Hanukkah. Fried food is traditional for Hanukkah because it also commemo- rates the oil that lighted the Temple's menorah. These foods can include latkes, which are potato pancakes. and sufganiyot, a jelly-Idled do- nut. Italy is home to a num- ber of old Jewish commuhi- ties in cities like Rome and Venice, and there Hanukkah is celebrated with beloved tra- ditions and specialty foods. One such food is precipizi, or deep-fried dough balls coated with honey. Golden and warm, the precipizi looks like miniature suns, reaffirming the motif of light breaking through the darkness. Italian Jews also popularized frying vegetables, and as such fried artichokes remain a popular Italian Hanukkah dish. I grew up in a town with a large Jewish population, and holiday parties in my el- ementary school always fea- tured a blend of Christmas and Hanukkah festivities. I remember playing dreidel, a game involving a spinning top and a pile of prizes, with my classmates and accumulat- ing delicious gelt (chocolate coins) wrapped in golden foil, and topping latkes with sour cream and applesauce. It was wonderful to have two great holidays-bring my town close together during the dark of winter. As the winter solstice ap- proaches, the nights get pro- gressively darker, casting a gray gloom earlier and earlier into the afternoon. For this reason, holiday lights play a powerful and heartfelt role in many winter celebrations. Candles illuminate the nights across the world, whether they spring from the crown of a girl dressed as St. Lucy or from a Hanukkah menorah being lit by a family. It is easy to get bogged in a metaphori- cal darkness this time of year -- not just because of the early sunsets, but because of the stress and depression that sometimes accompany the holiday season. During moments like this, it is important to pay attention to the symbolic lights in our life: family and friends, nourish- ing food, personal strength, acts of kindness. When we dwell on these aspects, rather than let the darkness get the best of us, we will see that our inner light can outshine anything. Ally Di Censo Symynkywicz is a Graduate Student in History at the University of Massachu- setts Boston. She appreciates any comments and sugges- tions about Italian holidays and folklore at adicenso89 Hell was in Session at 0755. on December 7, 1941 i!i i!i/ili~iiiii~iiiiiii~iii~iiii~ World War H veteran and ex-POW Robert Noble and guest speaker Marc Connolly. At a solemn ceremony at Mt. Wollaston Cemetery, the City of Quincy once again marked the anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Sunday morning, December 7, 1941. This 73 anniversary event took place at the World War II Monument, which bears the names of 255 Quincy residents who died in that world war. Marc Connolly, the commandant of the William R. Caddy Detachment of the Marine Corps League was guest speaker. That Sunday morning started like so many others at Pearl Harbor, located on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, However, everything changed in seconds at 7:55 am when the Japanese began their attack. As Kent Delong wrote in War Heroes, bombs began hitting American planes on the ramps and gas tanks were blowing up everywhere. Hell was in place on the USS Arizona, which was moored next to the USS Nevada. Eleven- hundred sailors died on the Arizona and another 57 sailors on the Nevada. All in all, 2,402 Americans died at Pearl Harbor that day and another 1,282 were wounded. One of my father's friends was one of the survivors. When I was a little kid, my parents would take the family to the Boston Common in the summers, where my father's friend sold ice cream from one of those hybrid ice cream cycles. My father called his friend a real hero, but the guy said he was just serving his country. I noticed when he walked, he walked with a good limp to his left leg, something he was proud of since he earned it at Pearl Harbor on that long ago Sunday morning. Marc Connolly closed out his speech by stating, "Remember the Arizona. Remember Pearl Harbor. session. At 8:07 am, a Remember December 7th." tremendous explosion took As we all should. NORTH END :I I PPdN.r]tq(.; 5 PRINCE STREET NORTH END BOSTON, MA02113 1 1 Quality Printing for all your Commercial and Personal Needs Stationery * Business Cards * Menus * Flyers Program Books * Wedding and Party Invitations Announcements * Business Forms and Documents -- COMPETITIVE PRICES