christmas – 2013

December 1, 2013 8th grade, christmas, diario/journal

o come, o come emmanuel1st entry – christmas 2013
9th entry – 8th grade

The date of the first Sunday of Advent of 1963 was December 1. Fifty years later, the first Sunday of Advent again falls on December 1.

I’m beginning the christmas 2013 posts early, because I’m going to organize them differently. I’m linking these posts to the 8th grade category, because I want to wrap them around some memories of nineteen-sixty-three.

December 1963
We had moved to the west-end in June and this was my first Christmas at St. Veronica’s. I was curious to see how it would go, because for the first time I had a nun teacher. Was she going to deal with Advent differently than all the non-religious teachers I had had?

advent_wreathThe Monday of the first week of Advent, Sister Drusilla lined us up in the hallway – the upper grades were in the old hallway and the younger kids were in the hallway leading to the new wing – and with the sign-of-the-cross she began the Advent service. The young nun who taught first grade picked up from Sister Drusilla reciting the Advent prayers and readings. It ended with us singing O Come, O Come Emmanuel. I liked the Advent service. We certainly didn’t do anything like this at St. Theresa’s.

The time before Christmas was full of anticipation and even though I knew all about Liturgical Advent, it never seemed real hearing about it only on Sunday at church. We did not have an Advent wreath at church, but having the service at school with the wreath on a small table in the hallway with candles that Sister let a kid light, made the season of Advent real.

(For the image, I wanted something that was both modern and non-realistic.)

first snow

December 8, 2013 8th grade, christmas, diario/journal

o come, thou key of david, come2nd entry – christmas 2013
10th entry – 8th grade


Old Calabrese Modern Italian Dates and Feast-days
u quàttru Barbara il quattro Barbara December 4 – St. Barbara
u sie Nicola il sei Nicola December 6 – St. Nicholas
u òttu Maria l’otto Maria December 8 – Immaculate Conception
u tridici Lucia il tredici Lucia December 13 – St. Lucy
e lu vinticinque lu Missìa e il venticinque il Messia December 2 – Birth of the Messiah

Zinga 132When we first got to Sault Ste Marie, my grandmother whose her image is on the left, taught me this rhyme and I remember thinking it was a fun way of marking off the days until Christmas. But as the years went by, I forgot the last part and could only remembered the first couple of lines. I’ve been trying to find the rhyme online, but have had no success. Finally, I took a chance and wrote it phonetically, in Old Calabrese, into the Google search-box and found it posted by Francesco Pecora on his Facebook page. Francesco lives in Polistena a small town in south eastern Calabria.
Below is his text:
Il detto descrive il modo con cui i nostri antenati annunciavano le feste nel periodo dell’Avvento; Il 30 Novembre, infatti, si festeggia S. Andrea Apostolo, che introduce le festività di: Santa Barbara (4 Dicembre), San Nicola (6 Dicembre), l’Immacolata (8 Dicembre), Santa Lucia (13 Dicembre) e il Santo Natale (25 Dicembre).

By the time we moved from my grandparents’ house to our own, the rhyme remained only in my head. In 1960’s Canada, the only feast-day celebrated before Christmas was the Immaculate Conception. At St. Veronica’s, Sister Drusilla insisted on using only the Advent cycle to mark off the days until December 25. And the rhyme lost its purpose when TV began running the Jingle Bells cartoon counting down the shopping days till Christmas. Who cared about Santa Barbara and Santa Lucia when there were gifts to be had.


December 10, 2013 8th grade, christmas, diario/journal

o come, thou rod of jesse’s stem3rd entry – christmas 2013
11th entry – 8th grade

DSC_7655The newel posts on the wrought-iron fence, at the end of the street, are decorated with boughs of blue pine tied together with red ribbon. On my way home, I decided to head back down and shoot the boughs and ribbons. The sun was at the horizon, but by the time I got down to the house it had set. It was 4:30. (Yes, I know what’s coming – the shortest day of the year, the Winter Solstice . . . the darkness.)

Earlier today I was doing some research on the feast-days, listed in the previous post, to see if there was any evidence to support the idea that Andrew the Apostle had created these markers and organized them as precursors to Christmas. Found no information to support this. Instead I found a tradition associated with the feast of Santa Barbara – December 4. In Medieval times, Christians would cut leafless boughs from a cherry tree, bring them indoors and set them in a bucket of water in their kitchens. The belief was that if a bough bloomed then the new year would bring joy. The superstition had ties to the prophecy from the Old Testament from the Book of Isaiah — There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots. (Santa Barbara was removed from the liturgical calendar of the Roman Rite in 1969. No real evidence that she existed. It’s a good thing them cardinals are selective with this criteria.)

Because the 8th grade stories are about the Advent period of that long ago at St. Veronica’s Elementary, I am using lyrics from the hymn – O Come, O Come Emmanuel – as titles to connect the 8th grade category and the christmas 2013 one. And the image of a pine bough with its scarlet ribbon is a good fit for the title.

December, 1963
Like all good Catholic school children, we got to draw Christmas themed pictures at this time of year. We got to use colored pencils and large paper. The itinerant Art teacher, who came in once a month, made the December lesson great fun. I remember that Mike Bondar drew a picture of the Christ child in a cradle holding a crucifix. (This is the Bondar family of astronaut Roberta Bondar fame.) Sister Drusilla, ever the sarcastic nun, scoffed at Michael’s rendition. He tried to explain that he was foreshadowing what was to come, but Sister would hear none of it. Considering that Michael was not one of the guys I hung with, I shouldn’t have cared that he was being insulted, instead I thought Sister was being overly harsh. He had a good idea and had executed it well. (Lesson learned – stay inside the lines or Sister will yell at you.)

Sister Drusilla was way too literal and closed minded for the likes of thirteen year old Michael or sixty-five year old Maruzzu.

winter light

December 12, 2013 8th grade, christmas, diario/journal

o come, thou dayspring4th entry – christmas 2013
12th entry – 8th grade


The hymn O come, O come Emmanuel – Veni, Veni Emmanuel – is a synthesis of the great O Antiphons that are used for Vespers during the octave before Christmas (Dec. 17-23). These antiphons are of ancient origin, dating back to at least the ninth century. The hymn itself, though, is much more recent: it first appeared in an 18th century psalmster. There are several arrangements of the hymn. The most common arrangement uses the last of the O Antiphons as the first verse with the next six following in correct order.

It is interesting to note that the initial words of the antiphons in reverse order form an acrostic: O Emmanuel, O Rex, O Oriens, O Clavis, O Radix, O Adonai, O Sapientia. ERO CRAS can be loosely translated as I will be there tomorrow. And tomorrow is Christmas Eve.

The Hymn O Antiphons Dates
O come, Thou Wisdom from on high O Sapientia December 17
O come, O come Thou Lord of Light O Adonai December 18
O come, Thou Rod of Jesse’s stem O Radix Iesse December 19
O come, Thou Key of David, come Clavis Davidica December 20
O come, Thou Dayspring from on high O Oriens December 21
O come, Desire of the nations O Rex Gentium December 22
O come, O come Emmanuel O Emmanuel December 23

I decided to use this post to write about the various Christmas hymns and carols. O Come, O Come Emmanuel was really not a carol that was being widely heard in the 1960’s. (It certainly wasn’t in any muzak collection piped into the stores during the December shopping frenzy.) It was restricted to Sunday Mass. I first heard it, outside of church, at St. Veronica’s during the Advent service led by Sister Drusilla. But it wasn’t until this year that I began to do some research and situated the hymn and the O Antiphons in my Novitiate Breviary in the Advent cycle.

In my mind, I categorize Christmas music: Catholic Christmas music is Latin – Adeste Fideles, In Dulci Jubilo; Italian music is about the child – Gesu Bambino, Tu Scendi dalle Stelle, Mille Cherubini; German and French Christmas music is romantic – Il Est Né, Minuit Chrétiens, O Tannenbaum, Stille Nacht; and American Christmas music is secular – Frosty the Snowman, White Christmas.

Image – Point State Park is all decked out for the holiday. The image is the downtown section of the park looking towards the Northside; the river section is on the other side of the parkway underpass. The entrance to the underpass is on the left of the image.


December 17, 2013 8th grade, christmas, diario/journal

o come, thou wisdom from on high5th entry – christmas 2013
13th entry – 8th grade

DSC_3330This posting is going to be a ramble. The monks of The Society of St. John the Evangelist in Cambridge have begun a set of video reflections on the O Antiphons. In two days, I head up to Northern Ontario.

December 1963
What I remember most of the winters in Sault Ste Marie, before there was central heating and you heated the house with a coal stove, were the windows decorated with ice-crystals. The sunlight through the frosted glass was bright. At St. Veronica’s the classroom windows did not frost over. And many times I’d look over at the stunted willows that bordered the creek next to the school. (I still can picture the insects that seemed to skate on the water.)

Winter light that far north was always grey. And waiting for Christmas vacation was more about not being in school than presents and family. Tobogganing and street hockey were things to look forward to, but Christmas day had lost some of its luster and I remember thinking that once the noon-day meal was over, a malaise would set in. The local network ran commercials of local businesses wishing us all a Merry Christmas. And daylight was done by 4:00. It was in this down atmosphere that Frank would introduced going to the movies on Christmas Day.

o adonai

December 21, 2013 christmas, diario/journal

o come, o come thou lord of light6th entry – christmas 2013

Dec21 022Today is shortest day of the year. And with this end begins the new light.

The drive up was miserable, not as bad as last year, but through the snow-belt – the area between Grayling and the Mackinac Bridge – I75 was a one-lane road. (I saw at least 5 vehicles that had slid into the ravines. And I decided that this would be my last car trip to this part of the world during December.)

Before leaving, I had decided to figure out how to get access while I was up here. I had talked to Bell Canada and the person I talked to assured me that I could get a hotspot device to connect to my laptop. My dad would have to sign for it, because I was not a Canadian resident. I called the Soo office to verify that they would have the device, but the woman I talked to had no idea what I was referring and insisted that there was no such device in the store. My next scheme was to see if one of my parents’s neighbors would give me access.

Yesterday evening I walked over to Gerry Pozzebon’s and asked if he would give me access. (The Pozzebons live across the street from my parents. Connie was friends with their daughter, but Gerry was too young to play with us.) Gerry offered, but believed that it would be hard to connect to his router from across the street. He suggested I use my iPhone as a hotspot. I knew nothing about that. His son talked my through it and I went back to see if I could set up the connection. The Verizon represented that the feature had to be activated from a Verizon tower in the US. I told him I was in a border city and could get to the US. He did all the configuration on his side and today I drove to Sault Ste Marie, Michigan to turn my phone on and off and sure enough I had a hotspot connection.


December 22, 2013 christmas, diario/journal

o come, desire of the nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind7th entry – christmas 2013

Dec21 043The hotspot worked perfectly well, but the roaming charges are phenomenal, so I turned it off. (I got an email from Verizon telling me that I had incurred a $40 roaming charge.) But for one brief moment there was a time when I could claim that I had Internet access from Ciccio-and-Mafalda’s.

The weather is the topic of all conversations and news commentaries. Southern Ontario is having ice-storms and all travel has been impacted. Here the snow is falling poster-card pretty. (I just keep hoping the by Friday the weather system will have worked its way out of the area and I can go home without dealing with weather warnings.)

Today, Derrick and I went to exercise at the YMCA and like last year they did not charge us. (The Y is one of the best facilities in town.) And while waiting to get our free admission, noticed that in the lobby/café area there is free WY-FI. Tomorrow, I’ll bring my laptop and upload this post.

Eating is still as regimented as a monastic schedule. My dad hollers up, telling me come down to the basement kitchen. Lunch is at noon and dinner at 5:30. You can set your watch on his eating routines.

The other topic of conversation is what I am going to do once I retire. I am amazed by the topic. I’ve never had an interest in anyone else’s retirement plans. Why people are interested in mine is beyond my comprehension.

almost christmas

December 23, 2013 8th grade, christmas, diario/journal

rejoice! rejoice!8th entry – christmas 2013
14th entry – 8th grade

Dec23 009

The image is of St. Theresa School. I was here from 2nd to 7th grade. The classroom on the right was my 6th and 7th grade classroom and our teacher was Mr. Orlando. This is the classroom where on a spelling test I spelled the word does DUZ and Mr. Orlando had me go up to the board and write my spelling of the word. I had no idea was I was wrong, but the experience contributed to my insecurities with spelling. (By the time I got to City High, my kids were trained to know that I did not know how to spell and that it was their responsibility to help me.)

This morning we woke up to 3 to 4 inches of new snow and a temperature of 2 degrees. Ciccio insisted on doing his vegetable shopping first thing this morning, so at 8:00 AM we were one of three cars at the No-Frills grocery store.

And for some reason, the public library came to mind as a place for Internet access and sure enough, here I am at the Centennial Branch on Bay Street, with free access. The branch was built in 1966, Canada’s bi-centennial and I remember coming here after school with a bunch of kids to do pretend homework.

christmas eve

December 24, 2013 christmas, diario/journal

emmanuel shall come to thee, o israel9th entry – christmas 2013

DSC_7741The image is taken from inside the SSM Public Library. This is the building built in 1966 to commemorate Canada’s centennial. I keep being surprised by the condition of this building and the YMCA building. Both were built when I was in high school and both have held up remarkedly well. I say this, because the weather here in the Great White North is very difficult on shoddy construction. I guess these two buildings were well built.

The temperature this morning was at -9. I don’t know how people live here, but sure enough the mall parking lots are filled, the library has patrons and the streets are being cleaned. (The only good thing about this temperature extreme is that the sun is out and the sky is a beautiful blue.)

Tonight begins the eating. I’m going to take my camera and shoot pics at my aunt-and-uncle’s. Have never done that and I don’t know why. I’m also interested in shooting their two kitchens and beginning to add to that category. The Christmas meal will be at my parents. I always wish the events were reversed. My parents do a great rustic meal which is what the Christmas Eve dinner is; and my aunt-and-uncle do a great formal dinner which is what the Christmas Day meal is. At one time that was the routine, but then the Thormans decided to do Christmas morning at their house and Christmas dinner in the Soo. Ciccio-and-Mafalda changed their plans and now they host dinner on the 25th. It’s always been a odd event, because they insist on serving both an Italian set of dishes and the traditional Canadian turkey. (They make a terrible turkey, but can’t say that, because it’s not about the bird. They make the bird so that the grown children can believe that they are not immigrants and that they have assimilated into Canadian society. Another sarcastic comment from the outsider that crazy Americano. Or, they do it because they want the Canadian additions to the family to feel welcomed. Sarcasm is much more entertaining.)

This will be my last post from the Soo. I will be able to post again on Friday from Rose-and-Derrick’s. (The library closes today at noon and doesn’t open again until Friday. Boxing Day is a holiday here in what used to the British Empire’s outpost in North America.)

dessert table

December 24, 2013 christmas, diario/journal

gilia, milio e ciccio10th entry – christmas 2013

Dec24 026Christmas Eve dinner is over and before we move upstairs, my uncle makes sure there are 9 dishes left on the table – an old Italian tradition of leaving 9 Christmas Eve dishes on the dinner table so that when the Christ child comes there will be food for all in his retinue.

The meal is always in the downstairs kitchen and dessert is always in the upstairs kitchen. The pic is my aunt and uncle and my dad. My aunt has been going on about not having her pic on the Internet, not that she knows what that means or has ever been near the Internet. (This all started last fall when Connie told her that there was a picture of her online and that it wasn’t a very flattering picture.) So we now tease her about it all the time and I promised to put her pic up online much to her horror. And here it is. My uncle decided to get into the teasing and started making finger gestures at Egilia. (The names in the title are not the people’s formal names, rather the truncated versions used in the family.)


December 24, 2013 christmas, diario/journal, in memorium



When we came to Sault Ste Marie, there were two families from Aprigliano that my parents were close with, the Belsitos and the Sanguinettis. Cum’amulia e cump’armunte Sanguinetti lived on James Street the old, immigrant neighborhood next to the steel-mill in the west end. And I remember us visiting them in the tall house with the narrow driveway. The Sanguinetti family was Armando, Amalia, Marisa and Joe. I babysat Joe when he was still a child in the crib. I associate the babysitting with reading Burroughs’ Tarzan. It was a thick, hard-cover book. And while Joe slept, I read.

sanguinetti2My parents baptized Joe, establishing a formal connection between the Zingas and the Sanguinettis. The thumbnail was taken at Joe’s baptism. Left to right – priest, Mafalda holding Joe, Ciccio holding a candle and Connie. (It’s one of my favorite images of Mafalda.)

In June of 72, I met Marisa and Joe in Aprigliano and we spent a month hanging out. They were visiting their grandparents, and I was visiting za teresina e zu milio. It was a vacation for me while I waited for classes, at the University at Perugia, to start – Junior Year Abroad. The best memory from this time is of Joe and I going cherry-picking. We went to the orchards below Portosalvo, climbed the trees and filled a panier with plump red cherries. We were very proud of our efforts, but when we got back to Joe’s grandparents, cum’amulia split the cherries to make sure they were edible and found tiny white worms in all of them. (Joe and I had eaten our fill while picking. Thank God for those strong stomach acids.)
From the three couples, the Belsitos, the Sanguinettis and the Zingas, only 3 remain – Amalia Sanguinetti, Ciccio and Mafalda Zinga. Cump’armunte died Tuesday evening December 24, 2013 – Christmas Eve.

sanguinettiI always liked cump’armunte. He was the only friend of my parents’ who interacted with me beyond the standard Hello, how are you. He once told me about a run-in he had had with a priest when he was a kid. His disgust played right into my own disgruntled attitude with Mother Church. Other times, we would sit and talk about all that was wrong with Calabria with our beloved Aprigliano. In later years, we would compare notes on the state of modern Italy. He would get out his fact-book on Aprigliano, and I would bring my recent experiences, and we would talk about how them there Apriglianese weren’t making good decisions. If they would just listen to us, after all we had all the answers. I really liked his brash approach, his take-no-prisoners stance.

I did not go visit him those last days in the hospice. I wanted to remember the firebrand, the iconoclast who had been a role-model for a bright kid afraid to let anyone know he was smart. I did not want my last memory of this wonderful man to be that of a cadaver desiccated by cancer. He did not suffer fools gladly and yet he interacted with me.

I am glad to have known him.The titles and italics are in old Apriglianese, our dialect.

the boys +one

December 25, 2013 christmas, diario/journal

dom, christian, mario, daniel and alyssa12th entry – christmas 2013

Dec25 015

I gave Seane the camera and she shot the group. (I insisted that Alissa join the rowdy boys on the sofa.) There were 20 for Christmas dinner.

We all ganged up on my dad and insisted that he cut down on the food. Gone were the fried shrimp, fried clams, fried baccala and all other fish products. I took care of the turkey, stuffing, the mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce. My parents added soup, lasagne, broccoli salad, rapini, cold green-beans and salad. Dessert consisted of cantaloupe, honey-dew, and fennel. (My dad brought out the wine he’s aged for over three years and everyone drank it, even his son.)

And the gift exchange was minimal.

boxing day

December 26, 2013 christmas, diario/journal

seane and lilly13th entry – christmas 2013

Dec26 011Seane, Lilly and I went out walking the neighborhood. We’re on Douglas, the street perpendicular to my parents’. The pavement is hidden below the snow-pack and will probably stay out of site for the next couple of months. The snowfall this year has been heavy and early. Already the snow-banks are over 3 feet and winter just started. Yesterday we got 3 additional inches of fresh show. I shoveled my parents’ 30 foot, double driveway, but my dad didn’t like my work and got the man he contract with for snow removal to re-plow.

Boxing Day in the Soo is still fully observed and no stores were open. Merchants in Toronto defy the law and open. They pay the fine and still make a profit on all the shoppers looking for a discount. (It’s Canada’s Black Friday.) According to Wikipedia – Boxing Day is traditionally the day following Christmas, when servants and tradesmen would receive gifts, known as a “Christmas box”, from their bosses or employers. (Isn’t that generous – the upper classes giving to us low people.) Boxing Day is observed in the United Kingdom, Canada, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Kenya, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago and other Commonwealth nations. (Will Canada ever give up its connection to good old England?)

the u.p.

December 27, 2013 christmas, diario/journal

michigan’s upper peninsula14th entry – christmas 2013

up-mapI think if the drive home in 8 pieces – the UP, the Mackinac Bridge, the Isolation, Gaylord, Grayling, West Branch, Saginaw, the Old Road, Frankenmuth and Birch Run, I-475 through Flint, I-69 East and Michigan 24 to Oxford.

1. The UP
Traffic on the International Bridge was heavy and it took me 45 minutes to get through customs. I-75 through the Upper Peninsula is a road in the middle of nowhere. That stretch of the interstate is very pretty and with all the snow a winter wonderland. It’s the beginning of the trip and I tend to be happy about heading home.

2. The Mackinac Bridge
mackinacThis year, both driving north and on my way home, I rode the outside lanes. These are concrete floorings and less scary than the metal mesh flooring of the inside lanes. However, I have to use tunnel vision and not look to my right. The railing is so low that it looks like you are riding railing-free and the Straights of Mackinac with their swirling waters are just off you right. (Every Christmas as we’re sitting around talking someone brings up a horror story about a car that was blown off the bridge and into the waters below.) The weather had dumped much snow in the area and the middle lanes with their wire mesh flooring seemed slippery and even more scary.

3. The Isolation
i-75After the Mackinac you enter Michigan’s snow-belt. That the area on the other side of the Mackinac and all the way down to Grayling. The snow-belt has two distinct areas. Between touristy Mackinac City and Gaylord is the most isolated and frightening section. The road is never fully cleared; it’s common to have only one lane of the highway plowed. And even as the land around me looks postcard beautiful, the worry of breaking down in this desolate landscape is also on my mind. Gaylord is the middle of the snow-belt and the beginning of the second section. This part of the winter-land is less forbidding, because you begin to see signs of civilization – gas-stations, rest-stops, fast-food advertisements.

4. Gaylord, Grayling, West Branch and Saginaw
Even though these small towns are in the snow-belt, they are also the beginning of civilization. In Gaylord, along I-75 there are large stands of pine trees with all their lower branches cut. Grayling is insignificant except to note that it is the southern border of the snow-belt. And West Branch is the half-way point of the trip south to Rose-and-Derrick’s. The highway bridge at Saginaw is the official entrance into southern Michigan.

5. The Old Road
Much of I-75 has been repaved, except for the area south and West Branch and almost to Frankenmuth. The lanes are full of ruts and it’s a bumpy ride.

6. Frankenmuth and Birch Run
The area is a shoppers paradise. And I hate it. The only carrot is that the highway becomes 3 lanes.

7. I-475, Flint and I-69
I really hate this part of the trip. It’s side roads to avoid taking I-75 down to Oxford. They are supposed to be shortcuts, but they go through some ugly areas. The i-475 spur through Flint is surrounded by the old city of Flint. The I-69 portion is through sprawling suburbia. This time the ice-storm had covered all the trees and at least that was pretty.

8. Michigan 24 South
This is the last road before Rose-and-Derrick’s. And for three quarters of the way was lined with ice covered trees and bushes. Beautiful.

twelfth night

January 6, 2014 christmas, diario/journal, italy

on the twelfth day of christmas, my true lovelast entry – christmas 2013
prologue-1 – italy 2014

MagiThe impetus for this entry is the magical word twelfth. I can’t spell it, because I have no understanding of how you combine a t, a w, an e, an l, an f, another t and an h into a word. What were them Middle Englishers thinking? And yet I love the contortions the tongue has to perform in order to make the sound. It comes out like an incantation.

Not to be outdone by them 14th century peoples, I’ve assembled my own contradictions from highfalutin Shakespeare (the post title), and Giotto (the image), to the low-brow Twelve Days of Christmas (the entry title). While using the Catholic feast of the Epiphany to tie them all together.

The pic is Giotto’s Adoration of the Magi. (Giotto’s frescoes remind me of American primitive paintings.) With camels and gifts the three kings have followed the comet – the brown ball at the top of the image – to the stable at Bethlehem. In the fresco, this stable seem to be the end of the road. The oldest king has taken off his crown and kneels before the child. All present watch except for the camel driver who prefers to attend to his animals. (He’s my favorite character in this Medieval pageant.)

The 2013 Christmas season is done. And good riddance. I am so glad to be nowhere near northern Michigan; to not hear anymore carols, holiday greetings, birthday wishes or questions about retirement.

Yesterday, I went over to Rick-and-Sarah’s and we booked our flights to Italy for August.