By Joe Cannavo
In my last editorial I urged my readers to put aside the urge to hit the malls to celebrate commercialization of this most joyous of holy seasons, and rather to focus on what the season is all about: peace on earth and good will to men. For Italians and Italian Americans, it’s also a good time to reflect on the past year and to celebrate the birth of Jesus, and what it means to share good will with all peoples regardless of their ethnicity, race or religion — and to keep alive a hope for peace in a world shrouded in turmoil not only on Dec. 25 but all year long. Now Christmas Day has come and gone and sadly with it the meaning of Christmas. Also gone, for many Italian Americans, is the time when we go a step further to bring our Italian heritage “out of the closet,” sharing with our family and friends traditions like the seven fish dinner, panettone and torrone, playing tombola on Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve, and other family traditions that have been carried down from a previous generation.
For some this extra effort to celebrate our heritage as we celebrate Christmas is gone. If you were in Italy, you would find that the Italians celebrate this joyous season through Epiphany on Jan. 6 with the same enthusiasm and celebrations as Christmas Day. Understandably, this is a bit difficult to do so here in the United States, given Epiphany is not a legal holiday or a holiday celebrated in many religions as it is in the Roman Catholic Church. However,this doesn’t mean that Italian Americans need to sweep this holiday “under the rug.” Because of the circumstances mentioned previously, a celebration of Epiphany may not be feasible on Jan. 6, but a weekend observance is certainly possible. Celebrating doesn’t have to be lavish as it might be in Italy, but it can include the story of “La Befana,” a traditional meal which includes pretty much the same as the Christmas Day meal, and maybe teach about the Magi and have the children slowly move the Three Magi figurines closer to Jesus lying in the manger. You might even consider having “La Befana” visit and leave some small stocking stuffer or candy — nothing too big or requiring a return to the mall.
Finally I understand sooner or later Christmastime has to end, but with it not the return to the “closet” of keeping our Italian heritage alive in your home. Make a New Year’s resolution to keep it going all year long. Encourage your children to take Italian as their foreign-language elective in school, and if time permits take a course yourself. Join an Italian organization. Attend an Italian Festival or other event. Read the Herald. Listen to our Italian-American radio programs. Then, don’t break your resolution to do one or more of these things.
Felice Anno Nuovo.