Monday, September 19, 2022

Happy Janaro Day 2022!πŸ˜‰

Once again it’s "Janaro Day"! Buona Festa di “santo patrono” della nostra famiglia!
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Today is the Feast Day of the Original Janaro, Saint Januarius, the fourth century bishop and martyr. I don’t really know anything in the way of cold hard facts that would prove this assertion, but I decided years ago to initiate the “legend” that he is, somehow, related to us. I base this on the regional traditions of Benevento and Naples (from which many of my ancestors came). He could be an ancient “cugino” (cousin). Why not just run with it?

Today, of course, he is known as San Gennaro, but our family name ("Janaro" with the "J") may be a variant in old Neapolitan dialect of the name "Januarius." There is probably at least some common connection between the names. My great uncle Gerry (the oldest Janaro I knew personally, God rest his soul) insisted that our name was not a spelling mistake made by some overworked Anglo-American clerk at Ellis Island. In fact, the four Janaro brothers came to the U.S.A. in the 1880s, before the great Italo-American migrations at the end of the century. 

Back then, Ellis Island was still a naval fort, and the unified federal immigration system didn’t yet exist. Moreover, the Janaros were professional artisans (tailors and “interior decorators”) who had some sort of "pre-approved" immigration status. In any case, they immigrated in (relative) style, sailing across the Atlantic in second class cabins, with all the authorizations and paperwork completed before the ship docked in Manhattan. (Some of my immigrant ancestors had rough experiences coming over, but not the Janaros).

In any case, “Janaro” is an antiquated spelling drawn from the cross-cultural, pre-standardized, peculiar regional dialect of Naples. More importantly, the etymology of both “Janaro” and “Januarius” traces back to the mythical Roman god "Janus," the "guardian of the gateways" and all places where people come in and go out (note that "January" is the first month, the end of one year and the beginning of another).

Perhaps the ancient Janaro ancestors were “gate-keepers,” though my life as a Janaro has not been characterized by mastery over any “gates.” I have spent a lot of time trying to convince various modern gate-keepers to admit me into the realms they guard. Occasionally I have been successful. Perhaps Saint Januarius has assisted me and our family to obtain admittance to places we really needed to enter. For this, I am grateful, especially today.

All things considered, and based on these indicators, hypotheses, and some good-old-fashioned stretching, I feel I can claim him as the patron saint of the Janaro Clan. Saint Januarius (San Gennaro), pray for us all.

[The image above is a detail from a larger work, Il martirio di San Gennaro (15th c.) by Neri di Bicci.]

I celebrated today’s feast by spending some quality time with the youngest person among us (thus far) to inherit the Janaro name, our rapidly growing granddaughter Maria.