I remember when New Years was tied up with a dropping ball, the sounds of Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians and the crush of people in Times Square waiting to count down the last ten seconds of the old year.
Well, I’ve added and revised some of my personal traditions. They all include special people.
As children this was the time to reconnect with our Sicilian taste. We looked forward to the fruits and sweets that came from there via Cleveland. And the supply was limited because of the cost. But oh the taste of ripe persimmons, prickly pears (figamore), and Giuggiulena, a brittle Sicilian toffee that was sugar and honey with sesame seeds and almonds.
Each required a special knack to eat. Unripe persimmons dried up your mouth and when too ripe they managed to slip and stain everything. It took some skill to avoid the thin “needles” of the prickly pear and the brittle candle was delicious when new but was a test for any healthy set of teeth.
After I entered the convent, a new tradition marked the New Year. My cousin Tony and his wife Trish lived in Toledo and invited me to spend part of New Year’s Eve at their home. That gathering continues. Sharing around the table is always part of the celebration but we’ve played games, gone and watched the “polar bears” jump into the Maumee and even enacted a murder mystery, coming dressed as our character.
There are some mini memories that will always be replayed in my ear – my Dad calling from the restaurant to wish me a Happy New Year and give me his love, sharing a glass of amaretto, Strega or Limon cello with the family, and the front page of The Toledo Blade showing a huge image of our home, Earth in space and the caption, “We’re still here!”
Of course one tradition that spans every part of my growth has been the power of gathering to feed the spirit. My family and Franciscan family have always marked the days, times of transition and times of celebration with prayer. So on New Year’s Eve we gather to pray for peace in small groups and inviting others to join us for liturgy.
2016 is indeed a special year – the Jubilee Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis and the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Sisters of St. Francis of Sylvania, Ohio. For what has been, thanks. For what will be, yes! We give thanks for 100 years of Franciscan Presence. We say yes to continuing that presence and are grateful to be blessed with your presence in our lives and mission.