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December 26, 2014

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Page 4 POST-GAZETTE, DECEMBER 26, 2014 L'Anno Bello: A Year in Italian Folklore Ringing in the New Year by Ally Di Censo Symynkywicz Christmas does not end once the page marked "December 25th" flies off the calendar. True, radio stations stop playing carols like Have Yourself a Merry Little Christ- mas and Sleigh Ride on per- manent rotation. Yes, the presents under the tree have been unwrapped, revealing the delights hidden inside. However, the celebrations of Christmas continue for a while after the holiday proper has come to a close. Accord- ing to old tradition, and that famous song about five golden rings, there are actually twelve days of Christmas. These days begin on the 25th and do not end until January 6th, which is the feast of the Epiphany. In Italy, each of the Twelve Days is imbued with a special significance. De- cember 26th, for example, is St. Stephen's Day, or /a Festa di Santo Stefano in Italian. During this day, Italians visit family or go skiing in moun- tain resorts. Indeed, the Twelve Days of Christmas all contain .a magical and mysti- cal quality, a unique sense of being removed from the daily bustle and grind of the rest of the year. I spend the Twelve Days of Christmas in a jolly haze, taking advantage of my vacation from school. I catch up on grading, eat Christmas leftovers, shop in blissfully uncrowded stores, and see family members who are vis- iting from overseas. However, I also spend these days pre- paring for one of my favorite holidays and what I believe to be the most mysterious date of the Twelve Days of Christ- mas: New Year's Eve. Filled with folklore and tradition, the twinned holidays of New Year's Eve and New Year's Day ring in a fresh new beginning with luck and good fortune. New Year's Eve feels differ- ent from all the other days of the year, carrying with it a palpable aura of anticipatiofi and hope. I see people going about their daily business -- walking a dog, shopping at a supermarket, driving home for work -- yet overlapping these scenes of everyday life stands the electric buzz of nostalgia and optimism, the profound knowledge that the old year is giving way to a new and exciting start. I believe that even the twilight sky looks special on New Year's Eve, glowing with a gem- toned dark blue shade indica- tive of the slowly lengthening days. The marked unique- ness of New Year's Eve is what has led a number of luck-bringing folk traditions to surround this holiday. Since New Year's Eve is laden with so much insecurity -- will the new year be worse or better than the last? A smat- tering of superstitions seek to increase people's good for- tune in the next twelve months. The most famous New Year's Eve superstition involves creating a lot of noise at the stroke of midnight, re- flective in the noisemakers and party horns of today. In ancient times, people be- lieved that supernatural be- ings wandered the Earth dur- ing times of transition, and that loud noises were espe- cially adept at chasing evil spirits away. Certain foods also bestow good fortune in the upcoming year. In Italy, the main lucky New Year's food is lentils, which are thought to resemble coins and as such bring prosperity. They are usually eaten with a spicy pork sausage known as cotechino. My grandmother fondly remembers a quirky luck ritual enacted in Naples on la Notte di San Silvestro ("St. Sylvester's Night" -- this is the Italian term for New Year's Eve, since December 31st is also the feast day of Saint Sylvester). As a board- ing school student in this city during the 1940s, my grand- mother had to exercise great caution walking down the street on New Year's Eve, for people threw old, unused or broken items from their win- dows, all in the name of mak- ing a fresh start in the New Year! While I do not throw things out my window, I do celebrate New Year's Eve in a tradi- tional and folksy manner with my family. We gather at my aunt's house and enjoy a special meal that ends with my chocolate-and-vanilla marbled ririg cake-for des- sert. Ring cakes are another lucky food for New Year's Eve since their shape symbolizes the cycle of the year. I love to listen to my grandmother's stories of ancient New Year's traditions in the small Italian town of her youth, such as the practice of sweeping out the door with a broom in order to Buon Natale Slgari Boston's larsest private cisar lockers & museum food offers, c~:pr offennss, and top shelf liqueur 292 Hanover Street * Boston, Massachusetts * 617-227-0295 chase the old year away. My family plays Bingo together, which is known as tombo/a in Italian. Games of chance are popular parts of New Year's celebrations around the world, for they symbolize the unexpected thrill of good luck. We watch the televised New Year's festivities in New York and when the famed Times Square ball finally drops all the way down at midnight, we hug and kiss and wish each other a happy New Year. This is my favorite part, hands- down, of New Year's Eve, since the love of family and friends is what I most want to be sur- rounded by every year. New Year's Day is more relaxing. Known as Capodanno, or "head of the year," in Italian, this is traditionally a day spent recuperating from the festivities the night before. Superstition decrees that the way you start the year is the way you will end it, so I like to spend New Year's Day do- ing a little bit of the things that I love, such as writing, reading, baking and watching a movie. Last year, I woke up late on New Year's Day and walked to the gym on the other side of my townhouse complex. As I walked down the quiet street, I noticed that the sun seems brighter and that the snow twinkled as ff it was made of diamonds. Even the bird songs sounded happier! It was such a wonderful feel- ing, like the whole world was starting fresh. It is a feeling that characterizes New Year's Day for me. New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are magical holi- days, overflowing with mys- tery and luck and tingling anticipation. While they are part of the Christmas season, they also burst with their own unique traditions and lore. New Year's celebrations urge us to start the new cycle with the love of family and with luck always on our side. For we make our own luck by greeting the world with. opti- mism and kindness, two traits that typify New Year's festivities around the world. Whether it includes eating lentils or shouting gleefully at midnight, New Year's cus- toms remind us that facing the world with love and hope will provide us with the for- tune we need to blaze happily in the unknown. Yes, it can be scary to leave behind the familiar and face something completely new, but New Year's offer us the chance to improve ourselves and our outlook on life. Without end- ings, there can be no begin- nings or new opportunities for joy and self-discovery. This New Year's, surround yourself with people that you love and promise to make the next twelve months a time of won- der and cheer! Happy New Year! Buon Anno! by Sal Giarratani LOOKING BEHIND, LOOKING AHEAD Christmas and New Year's is a time of the year where we slow down almost as swiftly as we rush around buying all those gifts. We are in a time of the year where we are forced to look into the nearest mirror and attempt to see who we really are and what we have accomplished over the previous twelve months. Most of the time we come up short on our self- analysis, we find it difficult to measure up to our own hoped expectations of what we want to be. I recently heard an old hit song on the radio and the lyrics were so simple yet so profound as it went, "I've been crazy all these years just to keep me from going insane." To me it means staying loose and relaxed, taking things as they come up and never losing perspec- tive on the important things of life. Life isn't about getting things as much as it is about giving of yourself to others around you. It is about liv- ing life to the fullest and do- ing good along the long road you are riding. Sometimes things go smoothly and sometimes the road gets bumpy, but you keep plug- ging away one step after the other. Christmas is about love and New Year's about hope. Our lives are to be lived. We are born to live and not merely exist. I recently heard a homily at church which stated, some people get dead as soon as they are born and live dead and then die dead. Their lives were wasted. They made no one happy. They did nothing good. They wasted their gift of life. New Year's is the time to come alive after celebrating life at Christmas. Every year is another opportunity to grow. Remember it isn't over for us until they throw dirt atop us. As actor Morgan Freeman's character in "Shawshank Redemption" stated, "It is time to get on with the busi- ness of living or get on with the business of dying." In short, use this time of the year to look ahead with hope for the future and not be held captive by your past. We are only guaranteed the present. Use it to make better tomor- rows. The past is past, move on from it. Look forward to the future and be happy' about it. e/v tma ALBERT A. DENAPOLI, ESQ. Tadow, Breed, Hart & Rodgers, P.C. 101 Huntington Avenue Prudential Center Boston, MA 02199 (617) 218-2024 Direct, (617)218-2000 Main (617) 261-7673 Fax E-Mail:, Web Address: The law firm of Tarlow, Breed, Hart & Rodgers, P.C. provides individuals, businesses and municipalities with sophisticated and cost-effective legal counsel in the areas of estate planning, taxation, real estate, corporate law, executive benefits, business litigation, environmental law, and insolvency law. The firm is unique in its ability to provide comprehensive and high quality legal services normally associated with significantly larger firms but m a more cost effective manner. Wishig you a Happy and Healthy Holiday ! 617-482-4787 w 25 Dorchester Avenue 02.205 Meeti our Members financial needsforgO ! Ally Di Censo Symynkywicz is a Graduate Student in ] Federallyinsured A;:$ & I History at the University of of NCUA Limits are fully " Massachusetts Boston. She appreciates any comments and suggestions about Italian WWW.BOSTONPOSTGAZETTE.COM holidays and folklore at