SECOND DAY of CHRISTMAS
St. John’s Day
Today we focus on wine, for today we remember St. John the Evangelist, one of the Twelve Apostles, the only one who did not die a martyr’s death for his beliefs. Not that there were no attempts on his life. In fact, wine is central to St. John’s Day because of the most famous attempt on his life: He was given poison wine to drink, but the poison had no effect on him; nothing at all happened after he drank it.
And so on St. John’s Day, this Second Day of Christmas, it is customary to give gifts of wine, and it is customary to bless our wine. Wine has long been brought to churches on this day, especially in Germany and in Austria, for a blessing by the priest and this blessed St. John’s wine is thought to have healing properties and to taste better than other wines. Some even hold that wine that is not blessed but is stored nearby to blessed St. John’s wine improves in flavor just by being near it.
Both of my grandfathers made wine, though I never had the pleasure of tasting the fruits of their labor. Grandpa Cutrone died long before I was born, and Grandpa DeLuca stopped making wine eventually, as have probably most all the Italian grandfathers. It’s a shame, for I would have loved to make wine with Grandpa and with my dad, who helped him out with the annual project. I was searching just tonight for an old 8mm film of Dad and Grandpa DeLuca at work making wine one autumn, but the film clip turned out to be just a few seconds long and quite dark and in it, Dad was hammering something while Grandpa was showing off a barrel hoop to the camera. Not long after that, though, came a short segment of my dad’s family sitting down to Christmas dinner. It’s ravioli, which is still our favorite Christmas dinner, and everyone is toasting with wine, very likely the wine Dad and Grandpa Cutrone made earlier that year. It makes me happy to see this.
Yesterday, for the First Day of Christmas and St. Stephen’s Day, we enjoyed roasted chestnuts and mulled wine. Today, we do the same. It will most likely be just Seth and me raising our glasses to each other tonight, but no matter if it’s just the two of us or a table full of people, still we say the same: Salute! And at this Christmastide, we’ll add, as well, Merry Christmas, Buon Natale.
Image: That’s Grandpa Cutrone, the grandpa I never knew, raising his glass to us at Christmas, probably 1949 or 1950. It’s a still from the video below. The little girl in the movie is my cousin Cammie. Grandma is there, as is Aunt Mary and Uncle Phil, and Uncle Frank. My mom is in white; so is my dad; he’s the one who winks at the camera. That’s just the way he was.