Newspaper Archive of
Boston, Massachusetts
December 18, 2015     Post-Gazette
PAGE 4     (4 of 16 available)        PREVIOUS     NEXT      Full Size Image
PAGE 4     (4 of 16 available)        PREVIOUS     NEXT      Full Size Image
December 18, 2015

Newspaper Archive of Post-Gazette produced by SmallTownPapers, Inc.
Website © 2018. All content copyrighted. Copyright Information.     Terms Of Use.     Request Content Removal.

I PAGE 4 POST-GAZETTE, DECEMBER 18, 2015 L'Anno Bello: A Year in Italian Folklore Christmas, A Time of Tradition by Ally Di Censo Symynkywicz We now find our- selves in that unique and mysterious season known as midwinter. December 22nd marks the winter solstice, the shortest night of the year. As this date ap- proaches, I can defi- nitely feel the darkness closing in like a worn blanket, shrouding the Earth in its dusky glow. I do not bemoan this darkness, however; be- cause it forms a necessary and beautiful component of the year's cycle. On frosty nights, the stars appear brighter and sharper in the inky black man- tel of the sky - my husband and I even witnessed a huge shooting star the other night! The short nights are also signifi- cant because they enhance the meaning of the winter solstice; after this date, the sun will gradually stay longer in the sky, bringing hope and light in its path. It is no coincidence that Christmas, with its emphasis on candles, burning yule logs and light decorations, occurs during the darkest time of the year. Religiously, the Christmas story represents light coming to the world in the form of Jesus, while symbolically the many sources of luminous decorations represent the return of the sun after the solstice. Because of the holiday's profound meaning and symbolism, I relish traditional Christmas celebrations that highlight these elements. From food to gifts, 1 enjoy Christmas most when surrounded by tra- dition and the love of family. One way in which I honor the holiday customs passed down in my family is through food. Food forms an integral part of the Christmas Eve feast in my home, which is known as la Vigilia cli Natale, or =the Christmas vigil" in Italian. Ac- cording to Italian lore, la Vigilia is traditionally a meatless meal, stemming from the days when Christmas Eve was considered a fast period in preparation for the birth of Jesus the next day. As such, many Italian families may prepare seafood- based dishes for la Vigilia. I am always excited to see what fish plate will be served each year at la Vigilia; last year, my mother cooked a tender sole with shrimp stuffing. This year, she plans on making a smoked salmon quiche, while my uncle will be preparing a rich with a variety of seafood. However, my favorite part of holiday cooking involves desserts. Several tra- ditional Italian desserts have become inextricably associated with the Christmas season and form an indispensable part of my holiday celebrations. I remember my father always bringing home a cylindrical box of panettone right before Christmas. Panettone is a sweet bread studded with dried fruits and candied peel, and its name literally means =great bread," I actually do not really like the taste ofpanettone, but I appreci- ate its inclusion in my holiday dinner as an indicator of a time- honored tradition. I have great love and passion for struffoli, a dessert my grandmother has been making since I was little. Struffoli are deep-fried dough balls soaked in honey, arranged into a wreath or tree shape, and sprinkled with colored nonpareils. They are a fun and whimsical way tc revel in the brightness of the holiday sea- son. I have also made a lemon tart every Christmas Eve for" several years now, to showcase the citrus fruits now in season. So on the dark nights leading to Christmas, you will most likely find me in the kitchen, prepar- ing recipes of yore. However, I believe that the most important part of my Christmas celebrations is fam- ily. The holiday derives so much of its meaning from the love and comfort that surrounds a person, emanating from the company of loved ones. I cannot imagine celebrating Christmas without my family. All of our Christmas Eve traditions- la Vigilia, playing board games, opening presents at midnight -- reinforce the bonds of fam- ily. When we play a silly board game, our shared laughter and merriment forms a bar- rier against the darkness and the chill air outside, filling the room with the special kind of warmth that can only be felt when sharing special moments with those you love. Opening gifts, which my family does at Owned and operated by Pamela Donnaruma, Publisher, Post-Gazette 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 Parking Adjacent to Building midnight huddled un- der the honeyed glow of the Christmas tree, provides me with yet another opportunity to relish my family. I love the looks of delight when family members and friends unwrap a gift selected or crafted with thoughtfulness and love. Truly, that is what gift-giving is all about, not material gain. No matter what your Christmas traditions are, it is important to approach them with love, compassion and a sense of wonder. In fact, mid- winter celebrations like Christ- mas developed their traditions as a response to the dark, cold days of the winter solstice. At a time when all seems frosty and barren, the convivial feasting and merriment not only honors the abundance of the past har- vest but demonstrates the resil- ience of community and familial bonds, offering hope that life will continue its vibrant path as surely as the sun is reborn on the solstice. An old Italian dic- tum states that no one should be left alone on Christmas, which is why we should do good deeds for those who are lonely or separated from their families during the holidays, such as the sick, the poor and those in the military. The Christmas spirit of generosity, kindness and family -- and "family" is not necessarily synonymous with =blood relations," as friends and the larger community definitely form part of your family -- is too joyful to keep hidden away. This Christmas, I will contin- ue to honor the family traditions woven into the fabric of holidays past. Whether they involve eat- ing struffuli or exchanging gifts at midnight, these traditions provide me with an indelible link to my ancestors and their values, spirkuality and wisdom. However, I will also pay special attention to the meaning behind the traditions. Lurking behind all of these customs- -and, in- deed, all customs of Christmas, no matter what the culture- -is the sense of love. Love shared within a family, love for the traditions of our forebearers, acts of love toward the com- munity, the love of Jesus and the Nativity, the love for the sun which rises again--all of this love comprises the complex and special holiday of Christmas. So on Christmas, as you honor your own traditions, take note of the bonds of love which sur- round you, or which you can provide. This feeling will warm your heart in spite of the frosty winds outside, and will stay with you as the vibrant festivi- ties of Christmas give way to a New Year. Merry Christmas! Buon Natale! 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 CDL REGIONAL TRUCK DRIVER Great Starting Pay, Home Weekends Experienced & CLD Grads, Start Your Career Today! 866-955-8904 by Sal Giarratani __I