March 17, 2013 § 2 Comments

Today is the birthday of both my grandmother and my late grandfather. They met on unfriendly, if serendipitous, terms, but began to talk when they learned they were born on the same day, on opposite sides of the world. My grandmother is Patricia for Saint Patrick’s Day. In my family, there was always magic about the day, the name, the story.

I’ve always thought my own birthday unremarkable. I shared the day with no favorite authors or actresses, and there was no drama for me in being born on the anniversary of the launch of Magellan’s fleet.

But today when talking birthdays with a lovely new friend from Italy, she immediately noted mine as “the Feast of San Lorenzo!”.

Yes, my patron. St. Lawrence of the gridiron, who angered a Roman prefect and was sentenced to be burned alive. He was a cheerful martyr, telling the overseers of his execution to turn him over when he was done on one side. I don’t know many others who know of him or his day.

Well, in fact, said my friend, she had never heard such a story. But he is famous in her native Toscana for la Notte di San Lorenzo, la notte delle stelle cadenti, the night of falling stars. His feast coincides with the peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower — every year on this night, she and her friends retreat into the country, to the hilltops, to watch for falling stars. The legend goes that the falling stars are San Lorenzo’s tears — or the sparks from the fire that martyred him. You can make a wish to him for every star you catch.

This tradition is perhaps the most beautiful birthday gift I’ve ever been given. I know how I aim to celebrate this year.


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