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December 21, 2012     Post-Gazette
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December 21, 2012

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POST-GAZETTE, DECEMBER 21,2012 Page 13 J00'anna 00abb0000tonn by John Christoforo A Nostalgic Remembrance Four days to go and it's Christmas. As far back as I can remember we have cel- ebrated Christmas Ameri- can-style. Mom and Nanna would put out decorations, and at some point, we would head to Jordan Marsh and I would visit with Santa Claus. He would ask me if I had been a good little boy and when I as- sured him that I had he would ask what I would like for Christmas. I was easy, I usu- ally asked for additions to my electric trains, Erector Set and new airplane models, es- pecially fighters and bombers from WWII. One day, after we returned home from visiting with Santa, Morn headed for the corner store leaving me with Nalma. As I watched her pre- paring dinner, I asked her what she used to ask from Santa Claus when she was a little girl. Her answer shocked me, "When I was a little girl in Avellino we didn't have Santa Claus; we had La Befana. Today, Italy has changed somewhat to follow the traditions of Germany, England and some of the northern countries. They have adopted Babbo Natale (Father Christmas) to bring presents to little boys and gifts on Christmas Eve." My next question was, "Who is La Befana?" Again, the answer shocked me as Nanna said that La Befana was a good witch. Now, to me, a witch was associated with Halloween and that holiday was on October 31 st. Nanna went on to say that the good witch had heard about the birth of a savior named Jesus, and she wanted to visit him and bring him presents. From the day of his birth, Decem- ber 25 tb, she began to scour the countryside looking for Baby Jesus. She found shep- herds who had heard about the baby and would look for him. Not wanting to wait, she flew away on her broom and found three wise men who were heading to Bethlehem to visit the newborn. Not wanting to wait for them ei- ther, she flew off and decided to leave a gift for every boy and girl, hoping that one of the would be Baby Jesus. By this time, it was January the 6 m and the shepherds and wise men arrived in Bethlehem to visit the Christ child and the day was called The Celebration of the Epiphany. Italian chil- dren had hung their stockings up on the night of January the 5 th and La Befana visited every house, filling the stock- ings with gifts hoping one of the children was the new baby Jesus. When Mom re- turned, she heard the rest of Nanna's story and told me that when she and her brothers were kids the Contini family celebrated both December 25 th and Janu- ary 6 th, sort of a compromise between Italian and Ameri- can cultures. By the time I came along, we celebrated only Christ- mas. I remember one episode that almost broke my trust in Santa. Mom and Aunt Ada, my Godmother and Uncle Nick's first wife, brought me to Jordan Marsh to visit the Christmas display in their toy department and visit with Santa. When it was my turn, I asked him for a new engine and a larger transformer for my electric train set. I had a set of Lionel trains and on birthdays and Christmas I would increase the size and scope of the train set. Santa made me promise that I would he a good boy and told me to look for the new engine and transformer on Christ- mas morning. Now if you remember, many of my columns have included the stories about my father and uncles being musicians. At Christmas time, they played parties night and day. Evidently, Dad couldn't make it to Eric Fuchs, the Beacon Street store dedicated to the hobby of electric trains. In his place that year was Uncle Nick. He picked up the new engine and transformer and brought them back to Nanna and Babbononno's apartment. By this time, Babbononno had sold the big house on Eutaw Street in East Boston and he and Nanna were living in an apartment on Princeton Street, a ten minute walk away. Being separated from his estranged wife, Uncle Nick had moved in with his parents. He was so busy he didn't even have enough time to look for an apartment of his own. My gifts from Santa would stay at my grandpar- ents' apartment as no one had the time to bring them to our apartment at 74 Eutaw Street. Well, as was the usual routine, I visited family mem- bers with Morn and Nanna during Christmas week and then, on Christmas Eve, left a note for Santa restating my request for a new engine and transformer for my train set. As a bribe, I left Santa a dish with two or three chocolate chip cookies (my favorite then and now) and a glass of Zi'Antonio's best homemade red wine. (Hey, anyone could Buon Natale -- FOR YOU WHO APPRECIATE THE FINEST-- THE MUSIC FOR ALL OCCASIONS 781-648-5678 leave a glass of milk ... I was Italian.) The next morning, I awoke and headed for the living room and the Christmas tree that had the presents displayed below. Gifts were there for Mom and Dad and a few for me from relatives, but not the engine and transformer I wanted. My first thought cen- tered on the fact that we lived on the top floor of an East Bos- ton three decker and there was no fireplace or chimney. How could Santa come into our apartment ... through a locked window?. I headed into the kitchen sat down and sulked. Morn heard me and arose to begin making break- fast. With tears in my eyes, I explained my circumstance. She listened as I questioned the existence of Santa and if he was real, how could he get into our house. Just then, the phone rang. Morn answered and handed it to me saying, "It's Babbononno for you." Babbononno sounded excited and in his fractured English yelled, "Jenny, dareza bigga mistake. Santa Clauza bring you trainza tingza a my houza, no you houza." When I said, "What?" Babbononno repeated himself in Italian yelling that Santa Claus had made a mis- take and left my presents at his house instead of coming to our house. He added that Santa was sorry but it was an honest mistake. I had my coat, hat and gloves on and was out the door before Morn hung up the phone. I ran all the way to my grandparents' house, was shown a note that Santa left behind about the mistake and then, with the boxes that housed the new train engine and transformer under my arms, ran all the way back to Eutaw Street. Within fifteen minutes the new trans- former was hooked up and the new engine was traveling on the train track, puffing smoke and whistling away loud enough to wake up my father. He wasn't upset, though, as he sort of pushed me out of the way and took over as the engineer of my railroad even before he had his first sip of morning coffee. When Uncle Gino and Aunt Ninna showed up, they and Dad took over the trains com- pletely and I was relegated to the position of either con- structing something with last year's Erector Set or begin- ning the assembly of a new airplane model. Well, it's many years later and I await the return of my sons who are coming home to celebrate Christmas with Loretta and me. Before I close, I want to wish Dean Saluti and his wife Margie Cahn happy birthday, as both were born during Christmas week. And, to all of you that iden- tify with the Italian traditions of Nanna and Babbononno, I wish a safe and happy BUON NATALE from the Christoforo family for 2012. To Our Friends and Neighbors: Thank You We would like to express our deepest appreciation to everyone who sent a card or said a kind word regarding the loss of our dear Frank. Thank you to all who attended the wake, gave us a hug, a kiss or a loving smile. Thank you to everyone who attended the Mass and prayed for Frank and all of the Toscano family. We would also like to give special thanks to the Madonna Della Cava Society for opening the chapel doors as we drove by. The love, affection and respect that all have given us will be held in our hearts forever and we're sure Frank was looking down and smiling with much love. The Toscano Family Josephine, Frank, Aimee, Daniel and Lori Res Publica (Continued from Page 2) "freedom of religion." "Free- dom of worship" merely guar- antees the right to gather in church, synagogue or other place of worship for the liturgies or services of our denominations. Freedom to practice one's religion goes beyond that to recognize the civic aspects of faith. That includes the public dis- play of nativity scenes and menoroth (yes, .that is the correct plural of menorah; my two years of Hebrew in college finally comes in handy). Those public displays of faith are important remind- ers that not only do we have no state religion but that the state itself is not our re- ligion. It is also not our metaphysic nor our science. We pledge allegiance to the flag of our Republic, but we also, each of us, has other allegiances -- to God, to humanistic philosophy, to the rules of physics and so forth. On Christmas we cel- ebrate the birth of the King of Kings. We do so in a secu- lar state that, so far, has rec- ognized the right of every person to practice, or not practice, religion, as their conscience dictates. Let us pray and work for an America where freedom of religion is never infringed. qJuon 00N'atale00 Joseph & Pauline Russo Joseph Russo Funeral Home Merry & H0000ppy New year K3S Mechamcal Ken Shallow 617.593.6211 Fully Insured Lic #017936 Heating & Air Conditioning Sales, Service & Installation Merry Christmas and Happy New year 58 Sprague Street Hyde Park, Massachusetts 02136 The opinions expressed by our columnists and contributors are not necessaly the same as those of The Postette, its photos fetuS, include a se{f-add, stamped envelope.