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  • Holidays, Faith and Tradition
    Our Paesani

    "Our Paesani" is a column written by Francesca Di Meglio. Its purpose is to help bridge the gap between Italians in Italy and Italians throughout the world.

    Be Cool in 2007
    The end of the year is a time for both reflection and predictions. That's why I've decided to put together an Italian-centric list that outlines what was and what will be. If you want to be in with the Italians, then you'll pay close attention to the "in" list for 2007. Consider this your guide to being cool.

    Celebrate the Epiphany Italian Style
    Italians, like many other cultures around the world, celebrate Little Christmas or the Epiphany with as much verve as they do Dec. 25. In fact, when my father was growing up in Italy in the 1950s, he would wait with much more anticipation for Epifania, which comes on Jan. 6 and marks the arrival of the three wise men or magi at Baby Jesus' manger. After all, this is when my papa' would put out a stocking (one of his mom's actual stockings and not the fancy ones we have) and wake up to find gifts – from the Italian Christmas witch, La Befana, inside. If you are not living in Italy but would like to incorporate Epifania into your traditions, here are 4 ways to celebrate.

    Christmas in Italy
    I cried for days the first time I went to Italy for Christmas. I was 11, and we had to convince my little sister Rosaria that Santa Claus would be able to find us in Ischia, a small island off the coast of Naples. There were no lights on the houses, and we were the only ones on the block with a Christmas tree. It all seemed so tragic. Italians might not go all out with the decorations, but the holiday spirit is alive and well in the Motherland.

    Discover the Ritual of First Holy Communion in Italy
    I thought I knew about First Holy Communion in Italy. I always had one image of the Catholic sacrament when one first takes the body of Christ in the form of the Eucharist – a faded black-and-white photo of my veil-headed aunts standing with their hands folded in prayer and wearing beautiful, handmade white dresses made of curtains and sheets. They looked like tiny brides standing on the island of Ischia, off the coast of Naples in Italy. My own communion in the United States looked similar. The only real difference was that my dress was bought at a store (and probably was not reincarnated as a dress after serving other duties in the home).

    Easter: An Italian Child's Perspective
    Like most religious holidays, Easter is taken more seriously in Italy than it is in the United States. Many people - even those who don't usually go to church - attend Mass throughout Holy Week and on Easter Sunday. Many participate in outdoor reenactments of the Stations of the Cross. Although you'll find chocolate eggs stuffed with toys in many a store window, you will not hear mention of the Easter bunny or chickadees or Peeps. Still, the children in Italy look forward to this time of year and have traditions that uplift their religious faith but also are entertaining.

    Easter in Italy
    Deep purple, hot pink, dusty blue, and bright yellow are just a few of the glorious colors that wash over southern Italy at Easter. This five part article takes a look at the religious and spiritual experience, the holiday, food and the day after Easter, which is still a holiday in Italy.

    Edible Gifts Italians Will Love
    The holiday season is well underway, which means you're probably searching for the perfect presents for everyone on your list. If Italians or Italophiles are among your friends and family, then you probably know that food - and not money - makes their world go round. Therefore, edible gifts will be a surefire winner this holiday. Take your cues from the Italians themselves. Here are some delicious ideas.

    Favor Your Guests
    If you're looking to incorporate Italian tradition into your nuptials, then you should consider giving your guests bomboniere or Italian wedding favors. Surfing the Web for these treasures, you might find that they are simply too expensive.

    Fear the Evil Eye
    Italians are a complicated people. On the one hand, many of them, especially the older ones, are ardent believers in the Catholic Church. On the other hand, a large chunk of the population, especially in the south, believes in the malocchio or evil eye. As I understand it, the malocchio happens when someone wishes bad on you and gives you an evil look that has the power of an evil spell. I thought these beliefs were dead in modern Italy, but some people are hanging onto them.

    Ferragosto Reveals Italy's Two Faces
    I'm heading to Italy just in time to witness the throngs of Italians taking off from work – and basically their lives – in August. That's right. The entire country pretty much takes the entire month of August off for summer vacation – adults and children alike. The pinnacle of this month-long shut down comes on Aug. 15, Ferragosto, which is the ultimate Italian holiday and has both religious and secular significance.

    Find Faith in Italian Nativity Scenes
    Clearly, I need something to believe in, and I'm missing the holiday season in Italy, which is as much a celebration of hope as it is Jesus' birthday. And just what is the ultimate symbol of Italy's bright-eyed optimism at this time of year? The presepio or nativity scene. Others have their Christmas trees, but nothing compares to the masterpiece crèches for which Italians are famous.

    5 Ways to Woo Your Lover Italian-Style
    The Italians are a passionate people. They do everything big – from fighting to loving. As a result, we can all learn a thing or two from them. Since Valentine's Day is the perfect time to take stock of your relationship, you might want to take a few cues from the Italians about how to court your lover – and make a great impression. Here are 5 ways to woo your lover Italian-style.

    4 Resolutions for Italians
    The new year can be more than Tombola time for the Italians. It is also the perfect time to improve one's self. After all, January means beginning with a clean slate, a fresh start. And the Italians, who are always looking to demonstrate the bella figura, can get down with improvement. But sometimes, just like the rest of us, they don't know where to begin, which is why the following list of resolutions for Italians might help give them some guidance.

    Fourth of July in Italy
    This Italian American is sure to bring America's birthday to life, even when she's staying on a small Neapolitan island without hamburgers and hot dogs.

    Fuse Italian Tradition into Your Wedding
    The wedding season is well underway in Italy - and many parts of the world. Just ask my boyfriend Antonio, who lives in Italy, and went to two weddings in the last week. If you are planning your nuptials, consider including authentic Italian tradition into your ceremony and reception. Here are some of the more well-known ones.

    A Guide to the Easter Season in Italy
    I've written lots about Italy's Easter traditions and foods and my experiences. Whether you can take a trip to Italy for Easter or not, here is a guide to celebrating the holiday in Italy - or at least like an Italian from wherever you are.

    Halloween Comes to Italy
    Halloween is not an Italian tradition. But, just as the Disney channel and Coca-Cola before it, Halloween is beginning to infiltrate Italy. When I was in Italy in early October, there ceramic pumpkins and witches in many stores. And my Italian nieces, who range in age from nine to 11, drew picture of pumpkins and spelled Halloween-related words in English class.

    Halloween in Italy
    As Italians become ever more American, they have taken to celebrating Halloween on Halloween and on Carnevale. There's never enough to celebrate for Italians, and Halloween is a great excuse for yet another party.

    Have an Italian Christmas
    Christmas has arrived. But it's not too late to make your Christmas an Italian one. Here are some last-minute tips for doing just that.

    Holiday Packages for Italian Family and Friends
    Care packages are a wonderful way to stay connected to your relatives and friends in Italy. The holidays are the perfect time to send a little love in a box. But deciding exactly what to put in it can be a challenge. Lucky for you, I've been sending gifts to my family in Italy for as long as I can remember. In fact, I'm wrapping up gifts for a Christmas package for my Italian in-laws as I write this.

    Host a Pizza-Themed Kid's Birthday Party
    I did some research of kids' parties online (there are more themes and ideas than you can imagine). Then, I started devising my own plan. On Sept. 26, we surprised the Italian family with an all-American Italian-themed birthday party. It was like nothing they had ever seen before. I did everything myself, so I am sure anyone can pull this off. By the way, this could even be fun for adults. In fact, my son was the only kid (besides his teenage cousins) at his party. And everyone had a blast.

    How to Celebrate an Italian Baptism
    Since the majority of Italians identify as Catholic, many babies are baptized in the Church. The ceremony itself is pretty much the same as it is in Catholic churches the world over. But there are certain aspects of the celebrations that are uniquely Italian. You could easily incorporate some of these ideas into your own celebration, no matter where you're throwing your party.

    How to Curate the Cristalliera
    An Italian family's cristalliera, or china cabinet, is the keeper of its history. Each item that peers at guests from behind the glass comes with a story. Before you even get to what's inside, however, you have to recognize the significance of the hefty piece of furniture itself.

    How to Host an Italian Easter Party for the Ages
    Easter in Italy is all about faith and food. Some people spend the Holy Days and Easter Sunday in Rome with nearby Vatican City as their ultimate destination. I, on the other hand, have spent the holy season in Ischia, an island off the coast of Naples in Italy that is the home of my ancestors and husband. But you don't have to go to Italy to experience an authentic Italian Easter. In my experience, this is all you need to pull it off.

    How to Make a Last-Minute Italian-Style Gift Basket
    You're running out of time. It's almost Christmas, and you still have not bought a gift for those hard-to-shop-for family and friends. Consider Italian-style gift giving.

    How to Make an Italian, Stuffed Chocolate Egg
    In every supermarket in Italy, you will find large chocolate eggs stuffed with gifts during the Easter season. Some chocolatiers and pastry shops will also make a customized egg for you, so you can fill it with whatever trinkets you like. Follow these easy how to instructions to make your own Italian stuffed chocolate egg.

    How to Fill an Italian Easter Basket
    Discover the goodies you could use to make your Easter gifts typical of what you'd find in the Boot.

    How to Have an Italian Easter Party
    My Italian husband is spending Easter, his first holiday - other than Thanksgiving, which is not celebrated in Italy - in the United States with me in 2010. My goal is to make this one special feast. If I'm to do it correctly, I'll have to bring Italian Easter to him in the States. Here's some of what my husband is probably expecting and which you might want to infuse into your Easter celebration.

    How to Make an Italian Thanksgiving Turkey
    Even though every Italian I know makes a turkey for Thanksgiving, none of them really long for it in the way Americans do. That's why last year, I turned our antipasto platter into a turkey. Give the people what they want is what I always say. This is so easy that anyone could incorporate it into their own Thanksgiving meal.

    How to Plan an Italy-Themed Kid's Birthday
    My husband and I are going to be in Ischia, Italy for my son's second birthday. It won't happen until September, but I've begun the planning because I want to make his party with his Italian relatives unforgettable. Here's how to plan an Italian festa that will have the neighborhood kids learning about your culture wherever you live.

    How to Send Italian Holiday Cards
    The holiday season is a magical time of year. If you're like me, you're always looking for ways to incorporate your heritage into the season. The first sign of the holidays is the arrival of holiday greeting cards in your mailbox. While most Italians in Italy do not send cards to one another, they definitely appreciate it if you send such greetings to them. After all, who doesn't like a handwritten surprise in their snail mailbox? Even if you're sending your cards to friends and family who live in other parts of the world where they might speak other languages, you might still want to add Italian flair to your greeting. Sending Italian holiday cards is easier than you might imagine.

    I'm a Believer! Stories of the Italian Christmas Witch
    Italy is such a magical place for children that they receive gifts from not one but two mythical figures during the holiday season. You see in Italy, the holiday season really lasts through Jan. 6, or the Epiphany, and on that day La Befana, known to some as the Christmas witch, brings goodies to all of Italy's children.

    Italian Baby Names Dictionary
    As many people who follow this column know, I'm newly married to an Italian man. Because we're newlyweds, everyone here in Italy is asking us when we're going to have Italian babies. If you're looking for an Italian baby name to honor your heritage, this is the Italian baby names dictionary for you.

    Italian Bouquets
    Flowers are beautiful all over the world, but the Italians seem to know how to put flowers together in a bunch in a way that is both natural and artistic at the same time. As a soon-to-be-bride and daughter of a landscaper, I'm a big fan of flowers, especially when they're part of a bouquet. And I find myself buying people bouquets whenever I'm in Italy just to see what the florist comes up with.

    Italian Easter Dessert Table
    A look at any party blog and you'll learn that dessert tables are all the rage at events big and small these days. Alpha moms everywhere create elaborate sweets buffet tables with themed backdrops, food labels, and desserts, of course. There is no mom more alpha than an Italian mamma. So, I thought it was time to get Italians in on the act.

    An Italian Gift Guide: 8 Presents for Paesani
    Searching for the perfect gift for an Italophile (or, for that matter, anyone with sophisticated taste)? I've found something for just about everyone on your list, whether you want to spend thousands or next to nothing. The best part? There's a little bit of la nostra Italia in each suggestion. Here, my favorite ideas.

    Italian Holiday Desserts
    Food is the center of all Italian life - and that is even truer during the holiday season in Italy. While everyone seems to know something about the famous seven fishes dinner southern Italians enjoy on Christmas Eve, less is known about the delicious dolci (desserts) that follow the meal and often last through the new year.

    Italian-Inspired Resolutions
    The new year is a clean slate, a chance to change your life for the better. Or at least that is how most people like to think of it. Granted, many of us make resolutions that we never keep. So, why not make a list of resolutions that you will actually keep? What better than a list of resolutions that help you get in touch with your heritage? Here are some resolutions that will have you fitting in more with the paesani.

    An Italian New Year's Eve Party
    As Italians ushered in 2005, they uncorked about 30 million bottles of spumante wine, mostly from the comfort of their homes. About 55% of Italians said they were going to have a New Year's Eve dinner a casa instead of going out for expensive meals or parties. Truly, Capo d'Anno or New Year's Eve is a one-of-a-kind celebration in Italy. If you haven't experienced it, you don't know what you've been missing. Here are the highlights.

    An Italian Party for the Irish
    While everyone else is making corned beef and cabbage for St. Patty's Day, you can host your very own Italian fest.

    Italian Rx
    After a prolonged summer, the autumn chill arrived two days ago. Since the colder air arrived - from Canada, I think - in the northeastern United States, I've had the sniffles. When I complained about a tickle in my throat, my father Pasquale started heating up some olive oil. All over Italy - or at least on the island of Ischia, where he's from - people continue to do this whenever someone has a cold. In fact, they have all sorts of wacky remedies for the sick and injured. Here are some others.

    An Italian Thanksgiving Feast
    When my editor asked me to come up with a column that connected Italy to Thanksgiving, I was thrown for a loop. Thanksgiving could not be more American. What does it have to do with Italy? But the key ingredient to a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday is food - and no one does food quite like Italy.

    Italians Celebrate Their Sweet 18
    Italians celebrate their eighteenth birthday with verve. Both young men and women throw parties on par with the traditional American sweet 16 when they turn 18 years old, which is the age of adulthood.

    Italy Adjusts to Life with a New Pope
    Being in Italy when 78-year-old Joseph Ratzinger, now Benedetto XVI, was named the Holy Pontiff was an opportunity to witness history. Even more so, it was a chance to gauge the collective Italian disappointment at the thought of another reign of a conservative, non-Italian pope. In short, the Italian public was stunned. Still reeling from the death of the beloved Pope John Paul II, who the country had eventually accepted as one of its own, Italy was more than a little disappointed to hear that another non-Italian would be overseeing the Vatican in Rome.

    Italy Loses a Pope, Friend, Believer
    Even though Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pontiff since 1522, he lived up to his name as the people's "pope" - and won over the Italians with his mission of peace and his charismatic personality.

    Join Italy's Epiphany Party
    Italians are always looking for more vacation time. It's no wonder that their holiday season lasts one week longer than it does for those of us in the United States. They are off until January 6, which marks L'Epifania or the Epiphany, which is the celebration of when the three wise men or magi arrived to see the baby Jesus. Leave it to Italians to take things up a notch. Commemorating this encounter isn't enough. They had to make up an interesting story and bring a witch into the mix. Enter La Befana.

    Last Minute Gifts for Italians and Italophiles
    Didn't finish your holiday shopping? No worries. If you're searching for the perfect present for the paesani on your list, I can offer a few ideas.

    Make Sweet Easter Last
    Did you know Pasquetta (Easter Monday) is a legal holiday in Italy? Find out how you can celebrate this day with a picnic like the Italians and make your holiday endure one more day. This two part article includes a couple of menus that you can prepare for your picnic with family and friends.

    My Italian Wedding Diary
    Wedding season has pretty much arrived. The invitations have already arrived, and the brides are heading off to their final wedding dress fitting. Just a year ago at this time, I was happily planning my October wedding in Italy and November vow renewal in the United States. I married an Italian, Antonio Gerenini, not once but twice because our families, though both originally from Ischia, Italy, live in different countries. Learn about Italian wedding traditions from my experiences getting married to an Italian in Italy.

    Observe Lent in Italy
    Italy, with Venice's annual festivities, is much more famous for Carnevale, the day before Lent begins, than it is for the 40-day countdown to Easter. However, among Catholics, who make up the majority of Italy, Lent is the holiest time of year. And there is much work to do in preparation of the anniversary of when Jesus rose from the dead.

    An Overview of Holiday Traditions in Italy
    The feeling of Christmas is bottled up in my heart right now. I've spent a couple of holiday seasons in Italy, and I have to admit that I don't care for it in the way I do American Christmas. It lacks the showmanship of an American Christmas. But there are some lovely traditions that my family has maintained through the years. You can infuse your holiday with an Italian vibe. Here are some traditions that might interest you.

    St. Joseph's Day Is Father's Day in Italy
    Italian men don't wait to celebrate fatherhood in June like we Americans. Instead, they feast on St. Joseph's Day, March 19. To understand why they choose this day to honor papà (dad in Italian) is simple really.

    St. Patrick Is a Paesano
    March 17 is the feast day of St. Patrick, known to Italians as San Patrizio. Although Patrizio's celebration is overshadowed - in Italy at least - by that of San Giuseppe (St. Joseph) on March 19, Patrizio has his own ties to Italy. His parents were Romans.

    A Saint's Feast Day Is Still Important to Many Italians
    We want to know how you celebrate the feast day of particular saints. Find out how to let us know your traditions.

    Scary Stuff for Italian Halloween in 2011
    Only recently — in the last few years or so — has Halloween become somewhat of a holiday in Italy. Generally, Italians dress up in costume for Carnevale, known as Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras, play tricks on each other for April Fool's Day, and indulge in chocolate candy on Valentine's Day and Easter. And the fear factor of Halloween never seemed to play a role in Italian holidays, unless you count La Befana, the witch who brings gifts to children for Little Christmas on Jan. 6.

    Send Your Love to Italy for the Holidays
    The holiday season is right around the corner, which means it's the perfect time to show your gratitude and affection to loved ones near and far. Thanks to modern technology keeping in touch with your relatives and friends in Italy is easier than ever. Here are some easy - and affordable - ways to send your love during the happiest time of the year.

    7 Unique Italian Wedding Favors
    When Italians attend a wedding, baptism, communion, or other formal family affair, they expect bomboniere, or Italian wedding favors. This is serious business. People need to show off their goodies in their China closet for years to come. Many Americans have adopted the tradition, but they have mostly gone the route of edible treats.

    Should You Change Your Last Name If You're a Married Italian Woman?
    I have covered love and marriage as a reporter for more than a decade now. People are always asking about whether, in this day and age, women should change their name after the wedding. It is among the top searched subjects related to being newlyweds on Google, in fact. Of course, the answer is more complicated than merely yes or no. Of course, it depends on who you are and what makes you most comfortable. Of course, your spouse might have an opinion, too. This is relevant to gay couples, too, who might be considering changing to one name or combining both their surnames to make one.

    A Sicilian Wedding Tradition
    The Cunzata del Letto is a Sicilian wedding tradition in which the bride and groom each choose a young girl to prepare the matrimonial bed, where they will spend their first night as a married couple. The catch is that the girls must be virgins, so they are usually fairly young, around 12 or 13, in this day and age.

    Stay Connected with Loved Ones in Italy
    Like me, you're probably pining for days gone by with your Italian relatives and friends. Instead of accepting sadness, do something about it.

    10 Reasons to Be Thankful You're Italian
    There are plenty of reasons to gripe about Italy and your Italianness. Trust me, I know. I sometimes live in the Boot, and I've experienced the bureaucracy, the judgment in the piazza, and the prejudice (you stinkin' American). But there are many more positives than there are negatives. At this time of year, I like to be a glass-half-full kind of gal and reflect on my gratitude. So, here are reasons to be thankful you're Italian.

    10 Tips for Surviving an Italian Christmas
    Italian families are very close. Italians feel so comfortable with their loved ones — even extended family members, such as cousins or old family friends who pose as aunts and uncles — that they say and do whatever is on their mind regardless of who they might offend. In fact, I've often noted that my own Italian family has made an art form of arguing. And we can argue over anything. You name it, we've argued about it.

    A Thanksgiving Love Story
    There is nothing more American than Thanksgiving. Four years ago, when my cousin Fausto and his friend Antonio (who is now my husband) chose to visit the United States for the first time for Thanksgiving, I was delighted. It was a chance to share my country's number one holiday - the parade, the turkey, the football - with those who had never experienced it before.

    10 New Year's Resolutions for the Typical Italian
    The new year is the perfect time to make change. You essentially have a clean slate on which you can create the life you always dreamed of…or at least that is how it feels for the first few hours after the countdown to midnight. So, I decided to have a little fun and contemplate the resolutions of typical Italians. Here's what I came up with.

    10 Ways to Host an Italian St. Patrick's Feast
    No one likes a party more than the Italians, except maybe the Irish on St. Patrick's Day. Just because the Irish own St. Patty's Day doesn't mean the Italians can't make their mark. And who's going to stop them from celebrating anyway? The more, the merrier, right? So, embrace your inner leprechaun, known to the Italians as gnomo, and start celebrating. Here are some suggestions on how to Italian-ify St. Patrick's Day.

    'Tis the Season for Tombola
    Italy is all fun and games during the holiday season. The country's decorations are far more subdued and serious than those you might see in the United States. It's all nativity scenes and gold stars with few trees and lights. But in homes across the country, the people come together to laugh, eat, drink - and gamble. It's not what you think. Sometimes they're playing for beans or one or two euro (which are coins in Italy). They are playing Tombola or the Italian version of bingo.

    12 Days of Christmas for Italians
    While we Americans are toiling at the office or wherever it is that we work during the holiday season, Italians are taking it easy. Most of them have off from Christmas Eve until the Epiphany on Jan. 6. Much of Europe celebrates the holiday through the "12 Days of Christmas." The song isn't just about some make-believe, fantasy world where the holidays lasts and lasts. With that in mind, I set out to write my own 12 days of Christmas for Italians.

    Valentine's Day Gifts for Italians
    I got started on Valentine's Day early this year. I spent the weekend after the new year searching for the perfect gift for my husband. He didn't really like the clothes I chose for him for Christmas, so I wanted to find something great for Valentine's Day. I know that it's the thought that counts. And my love should be gift enough. But I get deflated when my husband opens the box and puts on a frown or that other face - the frown that turns into a forced smile in seconds - that tells me he doesn't want to hurt my feelings. It's painful. I get joyful when he opens a gift I give him with natural delight. My Valentine's Day gift to myself is buying him the perfect gift. Gift giving and getting is trickier with Italians that I imagined.

    Valentine's Day Italian Style
    Italians didn't earn the title of Latin lovers for nothing. They are arguably the kings of seduction. Men and women alike know how to flirt and how to get the object of their affection to believe they are the greatest discovery since sliced bread. So, Italians are the perfect people to look to for inspiration come Valentine's Day, what is meant to be the holiday for lovers. Here's how you can celebrate Italian-style.

    What Does the Pope's 25th Anniversary Mean for Italian Catholics?
    Amidst the current problems of the Catholic Church, Pope John Paul II celebrated his 25th anniversary. Is the Catholic Church falling apart under his guidance or is it stronger than ever?

    What to Expect at Italian Funerals in Italy
    Discover the differences between how Italians mourn and how Italian-Americans say good-bye to loved ones despite their shared religion Catholicism.

    What's So Great about the Italian Piazza on New Year's Eve and Everyday
    Nowhere in the world is a space dedicated solely to people watching so revered and worshipped as in Italy. In the United States, we have nothing that comes close to a piazza. There is no place to just sit and be. A piazza in Italy is home base for a town, where neighbors gather to debate the issues of the day (from Italy's place in the economic crisis to whether the town should invest in new soccer jerseys), gossip (mostly about who is sleeping with who), judge, entertain, and see and be seen.

    Why We Should Be Thankful for Our Italian Roots
    Find out 10 reasons - some funny, some serious - that your Italian heritage enriches your life.

    Why You Absolutely Must Learn to Speak Italian?
    Language can either be the bridge that connects or the wall that divides us. Thanks to the unified efforts of the National Italian American Foundation, the Order Sons of Italy in America and UNICO-National, the College Board in June unanimously voted to approve the Advanced Placement test for Italian. The AP test allows high school students who have been studying a particular subject to take a standardized test that helps them get college credit without taking – or paying for – a college course, depending on their score.

    Wine Making Unlocks Ischia's Culture
    When the sun sets on summer, the people of Ischia, a small island off the coast of Naples, begin preparing for the vendemmia or grape harvest. Many families and friends invite each other to their vineyards and host a lunch, often served at long harvest tables or as a picnic. But before breaking bread, the guests and hosts work side by side to cut the grapes off the vines for wine making.


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