July 2024 Cultural Note


Happy Fourth of July!

Did you ever imagine that Italians were involved in the American Revolution? One of the first casualties of this war was James Bracco, killed in action by the British army on October 26, 1776. Even before the Revolution, Americans were inspired by another Italian, Pasquale Paoli, who had led Corsica’s fight for independence from Genoa for about fourteen years. So it is not surprising that Italians supported the Americans in their fight for freedom.

One famous example is Filippo Mazzei who was a doctor, winemaker, author and a good friend of Thomas Jefferson. Mazzei wrote newspaper articles to inspire the formation of local volunteer militia in every county in Virginia. When the British landed in Hampton, Virginia, Mazzei and his friends Carlo Bellini and Vincenzo Rossi joined Patrick Henry’s volunteer forces to fight the British.

British war records show that Filippo Mazzei was captured and spent three years as a prisoner of war. When he was released, Patrick Henry sent him to Europe to raise support for the American cause and he succeeded in getting help from France. Mazzei’s plan involved a coordinated effort between the French Navy and the American Army which Thomas Jefferson used in the Battle of Yorktown. We can be proud that Italians helped us gain our independence and were willing to fight for our cause.

More recently in 1958, then Senator John F. Kennedy acknowledged Mazzei’s contribution to the US Declaration of Independence in his book, “A National of Immigrants”:

“The great doctrine, ‘All men are created equal’ incorporated into the Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson, was paraphrased from the writing of Philip Mazzei, an Italian-born patriot and pamphleteer, who was a close friend of Jefferson.”

To those who doubted this statement, Senator Kennedy goes on to say:

“This phrase appears in Italian in Mazzei’s own hand, written in Italian, several years prior to the writing of the Declaration of Independence. Mazzei and Jefferson often exchanged ideas about true liberty and freedom.”

Filippo Mazzei’s 250th birthday was commememorated on a US postage stamp in 1980 and a World War II ship was named in his honor. Let’s continue to honor his contribution to our nation’s history.

Happy Independence Day!

Submitted by Charlene Pardo



Filippo Mazzei, Wikipedia.com

A Nation of Immigrants, John F. Kennedy, 1958.

June Meeting – We Gave Out Money!

We love to give money to worthwhile organizations and individuals! That’s why we spend so much time fundraising. Last night we presented a check to Rocky Mountain Honor Flight. They bring vets totally free to a 3 day visit to our nation’s capital. We also presented a scholarship check to the daughter of two of our members. Natalina Aiello is doing some great things in college and volunteering in her community.

OSDIA June 2024 Cultural Note


Italian Festivals

It’s summer and the tourists have arrived in Italy! The weather is warm, not yet uncomfortably hot, but the lines are long for the major tourist sites. Take a break from the crowds inside and go to a local “festa” or festival to experience the food, music, and local craftsmanship of Italy. These festivals are in almost every large and midsized town and provide a first-hand look at Italian culture and history.

Pisa has a big festa along the Arno River on June 16. 70,000 glass candles called “lumini” line the river and the four districts of Pisa compete in a historic regatta.

Lake Como celebrates the Festa di San Giovanni (John the Baptist) on June 24 by setting hundreds of floating lamps on the lake by day and fireworks at night. While many towns have street parade, Lake Como has a parade of flower-covered boats. Florence, Genoa, and Turin also celebrate San Giovanni Day with more traditional street entertainment.

For art lovers, an international ceramics festival takes place in Montelupe, Tuscany. In the neighboring region of Umbria, the town of Spoleto hosts a performing arts festival featuring opera, ballet, art, and film.

Food lovers can go to Puglia. Their June festival celebrates olives and olive oil and features local dishes made with these popular ingredients. (Isnt that every Italian dish?)

There’s another food fest in Modena, Emilia Romana, which has a famous tortellini festival on June Second called “Tortellini under the Porticos” which sounds delicious and romantic.

The biggest national holiday is the Festa Della Repubblica,also celebrated on June Second. Italy celebrates the day in 1946 when Italians voted to become a republic instead of a monarchy. 1946 was also the first time Italian women were allowed to vote, so they helped create the modern Italian state with their vote. Look for the Tricolore air show put on by the Italian Air Force to display the national colors on this day.

Of course, June continues to be a favorite month for weddings. Serving colorful, sugar-coated Jordan almonds at a wedding is a tradition that dates back to the 14th century. In Italy, these almonds are called “confetti”. They are always wrapped in groups of five almonds or any number not divisible by two (the bride and groom).

I leave you with a poem that explains the five good wishes the almonds represent:

Five sugared almonds for each guest to eat,

To remind us that life is both bitter and sweet,

Five wishes for the new husband and wife,

Health, Wealth, Happiness, Children, and Long Life!

And a Happy Father’s Day to all our fathers, grandfathers, and good examples in our lives!






Submitted by Charlene Pardo

OSDIA Cultural Note for May

La Festa Della Mamma

In Italy as in America, Mothers’s Day is always on the second Sunday of May.  Americans have been officially celebrating this day since 1914. Although Italians have honored their moms since Roman times, Italy didn’t have a designated Mother’s Day until 1957 when a parish priest from Assisi started the tradition. Just one year later all twenty regions of Italy were celebrating Mother’s Day.

Italians keep the celebration simple. Families come together to thank mom, make her breakfast and homemade gifts and cards. School-age children are encouraged to write her a poem and older children will make her a special dinner or sweet dessert.

Flowers are also a welcomed gift. Roses are a popular choice in both countries, but potentilla flowers are especially loved in Italy. Potentillas represent a mother’s protective nature because the leaves close up around the little flowers at night and in bad weather to protect them, just like a good mamma.

It is likely that all your first experiences of Italian culture came from your mother. As a child, your first taste of Italian food came from her kitchen and even though that was many years ago, the aroma probably still lingers in your memory.

Your first experience of Italian music may have been mamma or grandma singing you a lullaby like “Ninna Nanna” or playing Italian songs at a family gathering.

You may have heard your first Italian words from your mom or grandma. Even if you spoke English at home, some Italian words may have seasoned the conversations, especially the animated ones!

Since mothers are the source of our first experience of Italian culture, we honor them and thank them for making us the Italian Americans we are today. Be sure to wish the moms in your life a Buona Festa Della Mamma!


(You can find Ninna Nanna on YouTube.)

Submitted by Charlene Pardo



Spring is here and with it comes the very Italian custom of visiting people in their homes. Italians love to socialize as the weather gets warmer, but there are a few rules of good conduct to follow if you are invited to a home for dinner in Italy.

First, remember to bring a small gift with you. Flowers or chocolates are a good choice, which shows your appreciation for the host.

If you bring roses for any occasion, make sure they’re not yellow! Yellow is the symbol for jealousy and you may offend your host. White or red roses are more appropriate and will be well-received.

If you bring a gift to a dinner or a party, don’t wrap it in dark colors. Always be sure to wrap it in light or brightly colored paper to show the joy you feel in celebrating the occasion. Dark colors on a gift kill the party mood!

Once you’ve finished your meal, it’s time for the famous Italian custom of “La Scarpetta”. You take a piece of bread and mop up all that delicious tomato sauce left on your plate. La scarpetta cleans the plate and lets your host know that you appreciated the meal. Now you’re sure to be invited back again!

Italian-American culture is not just the collection of customs you pick up from the larger society. Culture is primarily learned at home, especially from the women in a family. Next month, I would like to honor our mothers, step-mothers, aunts, and grandmothers, those dear women who gave us our first lessons in Italian culture. For the May meeting, I’m asking you to bring a picture of the woman who most influenced your Italian-American heritage. Put a sticky note on the photo with your name and her name and maybe a compliment you’d like to give her, such as Great Cook, Brave Immigrant, Family Peacemaker, etc. Let’s celebrate all of our moms this Mother’s Day.



You might remember the Cultural Note from April 2023 when we learned about the unusual immigration story of Gabriella Rose, the sister of our lodge member Bill Rose. To review, Bill’s dad (Albert) had married an Italian war widow named Eva while stationed in Italy during World War II. Eva had a four-year-old daughter named Gabriella born in 1942.

Eva was able to come to America with Albert, but sadly little Gabriella had to stay behind until she was ten years old, partly because of complicated immigration laws and partly because her grandfather wanted to keep her in Italy. When her grandfather died in 1951, her aunt started the paperwork to send Gabriella to America. After 12 days on a ship and a long train ride to South Dakota, Gabriella was finally reunited with her family. This is where we ended the story in April.

Now here’s the rest of the story. Gabriella’s life took another unusual turn even before she arrived in America. When she was eight years old, a man came to her home and said he was her biological father, a man who had been declared dead years ago. His family had even held a memorial service for him and his widow Eva had gotten remarried to her American soldier, Albert Rose. Of course, the whole family was stunned that he was alive, but little Gabriella was confused. She didn’t remember this man as her father, but she could see that she looked like him (and not like her blond mom) because they shared the same dark hair and eyes. When Gabriella finally arrived in South Dakota, she immediately told her mom about her long lost dad, which shocked her American family as well.

Then, after living in America for five years, the Rose family realized that sixteen-year-old Gabriella was not yet a citizen of the United States. Because her American step-father Albert had legally adopted her in Italy, the Italian embassy assumed she was an American, too. After more red tape, the embassy finally granted her full American citizenship.

After twelve years in America, Gabriella returned for a visit to Italy in 1964, but soon realized she had forgotten how to speak Italian. She learned it again after a few months in Italy and never forgot it after that. She was able to see her biological father several times while in Italy, even though his new wife disapproved. Gabriella was introduced as a “friend” to her dad’s two new sons until 1980, when a documentary reported the whole story on Italian TV. After that, they acknowledged Gabriella as their half-sister, although they never wanted a close relationship with her.

As adults, our lodge member Bill Rose and his brother Dennis were able to travel back to Italy with Gabriella, thanks to the show “This Is Your Life”, which sponsored their trip for a documentary on their amazing story. The Rose family history was finally sorted out after many years of heartache and legal battles, but as Gabriella said in a newspaper interview, “The war changes everything for everybody”.

For those of you gearing up for St Valentine’s Day, you are celebrating the life of an Italian priest who married couples in secret when Christian marriage was forbidden by the Roman Emperor Claudius II. Valentine risked his own life to marry young Italians. Eventually, he was caught and imprisoned, but continued to do good, even curing the prison warden’s daughter of blindness. Although condemned to die, he continued to write encouraging letters from prison, signing them, “from your Valentine”. Valentine was beheaded on February 14, 270 AD, in the name of love. Make a loved one feel special on Valentine’s Day in honor of this brave Italian.

Submitted by Charlene Pardo


Rose family history supplied by Bill Rose.




Happy 2024! I hope everyone had a great New Year’s celebration. If you celebrated by raising a glass of bubbly and making a toast, then you continued a tradition started by our Roman ancestors. Romans also celebrated by drinking wine and toasting their friends, but sometimes the wine was not of the best quality. Homemade wine could turn bitter and acidic, making it taste more like vinegar than a fine wine. Nevertheless, the party must go on, so Italians came up with the idea of putting some burnt bread or blackened toast into the bad wine. The charcoal in the toast would soak up the acid and reduce the bitter taste, making the wine more palatable. This example of Italian ingenuity kept the party going in ancient times and gave us our modern toasting tradition.

Another drinking tradition, the clinking together of glasses, has a darker history. We picked this one up from the Greeks who were also great wine-makers. The first record I could find of this custom among Italians comes from the Empress Livia Drusilla born in the first century BC. She was rumored to have a habit of poisoning the wine of any guest she didn’t like. This became a common practice among Roman nobility. In response, guests would clink their glasses together with the host so that some of their wine would spill into the the host’s glass, ensuring that the guest and the host were drinking the same wine. If you refused to clink glasses with someone, you might be accused of poisoning their drink.

At larger gatherings, the host (or a servant food-tester) would bring out a large decanter of wine, raise a toast to all the guests to their health (“salute”) and drink it. If he didn’t fall over dead, then everyone would drink from the same decanter and party on!

Many of you have interesting lives to tell that would make excellent Cultural Notes. Please consider volunteering to tell your story.

Submitted by Charlene Pardo


worldhistory.us/ancient history