Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, December 24-25, 2017


We Three Kings of Orient Are

We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star 

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to thy Perfect Light 

Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain
Gold I bring to crown Him again
King forever, ceasing never
Over us all to reign 

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to Thy perfect light 

Frankincense to offer have I
Incense owns a Deity nigh
Prayer and praising, all men raising
Worship Him, God most high 

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to Thy perfect light 

Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes of life of gathering gloom
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb
O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to Thy perfect light 

Glorious now behold Him arise
King and God and Sacrifice
Alleluia, Alleluia
Earth to heav’n replies 

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to Thy perfect light 

–Rev. John Henry Hopkins, 1857



 Silhouette of Three Wise Men and the Star of Bethlehem
Public Domain Clip via Pinterest

“We Three Kings of Orient Are”
Carol by Rev. John Henry Hopkins, 1857
Public Domain

“We Three Kings of Orient Are”




46d-Spring Break 2017 (Part 1)

46d-S[romg Breal-Giuseppe_Castiglione_-_Gathering_of_Auspicious_Signs“Gathering of Auspicious Signs” by Giuseppe Castiglione.  Painted in 1723.
Public Domain.

I have one very vivid memory that recurs each year around the time of my Mom’s birthday on April 18th.  No matter what the weather was like or what was going on in our lives Mom said a birthday is a time to celebrate.  Each day is a gift no matter what we find in the box we open each morning.  We each have a role to play and bring our own unique gifts to the setting in which we participate.  Mom also held that each day is a re-birth because at the end of the day we should leave off the exhaustion, the gains and the losses and put them behind us.  Sleep was a renewing process.  All that happened the day before could be recycled and of use in the present or the future.  We just need to get on with the day ahead and not dwell too much on the past.  Answers will come in the course of time.

To illustrate this point Mom once told me that the newly found realizations are akin to Spring.  From within will blossom the knowledge we need if we just quiet the ramblings of the conscious mind and spend some time in a sweet solitude where we gather ourselves together.  “In springtime, the world is born anew!” Mom always said when it was her birthday.  She used that as a way to encourage me in the practice of seeking time out and spending it in quiet reflection.

Each year Uncle Sammy and I take a Spring break.  It is a time to rest, to socialize during the Easter holidays, visit the resting place of Josie and Sam and pray for those we are with in spirit but cannot make the visit to, whether at home or at their resting places.  We hope everyone is awakening after a very long winter and taking time to attune themselves to the cycle of renewal and rebirth going on in nature right now.  May it also happen for all of you, too.

To add an element of learning to this posting we have showcased a painting by Giuseppe Castiglione.  He was a Jesuit missionary who became a painter in the court of the Chinese Emperor during the 18th century.  We have also learned that Giuseppe Vivaldi, composer of “The Four Seasons”, wrote sonnets to accompany each of his concertos.  We present here Vivaldi’s sonnet to Spring in Italian and English which come from the website  Acknowledgements and links follow the sonnets.

We will return to WordPress in mid-May.

–EmilyAnn Frances May
–Sam Serrapede, Jr.
–April 9, 2017

Spring – Concerto in E Major by Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
Springtime is upon us.
The birds celebrate her return with festive song,
and murmuring streams are softly caressed by the breezes.
Thunderstorms, those heralds of Spring, roar, casting their dark mantle over heaven,
Then they die away to silence, and the birds take up their charming songs once more.

On the flower-strewn meadow, with leafy branches rustling overhead, the goat-herd sleeps, his faithful dog beside him.

Led by the festive sound of rustic bagpipes, nymphs and shepherds lightly dance beneath the brilliant canopy of spring.


Spring – Concerto in E Major by Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
“Giunt’ è la Primavera e festosetti
La Salutan gl’ Augei con lieto canto,
E i fonti allo Spirar de’ Zeffiretti
Con dolce mormorio Scorrono intanto:
Vengon’ coprendo l’ aer di nero amanto
E Lampi, e tuoni ad annuntiarla eletti
Indi tacendo questi, gl’ Augelletti;
Tornan’ di nuovo al lor canoro incanto:”

“E quindi sul fiorito ameno prato
Al caro mormorio di fronde e piante
Dorme ‘l Caprar col fido can’ à lato.”

“Di pastoral Zampogna al suon festante
Danzan Ninfe e Pastor nel tetto amato
Di primavera all’ apparir brillante.”


“Gathering of Auspicious Signs” by Giuseppe Castiglione
Giuseppe’s Chinese name:  Lang Shi’ning
Public Domain.  Wikimedia Commons.

Giuseppe Castiglione
The Art History Archive-Chinese Art

Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” Sonnets

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons “Spring”






41a-2016 Holiday Greetings to our blog friends and subscribers


Happy Winter Solstice!
December 21, 2016



Blessed Hannukah!
December 24, 2016-January 1, 2017



Merry Christmas!
December 25, 2016



Happy Kwanzaa!
December 26, 2016-January 1, 2017


It is the season of Light
when Joy, Hope and Love
shine upon us with blessings
from Heaven above.
May the flames of Love and Hope burn bright in your heart,
bringing Joyful inspiration as the New Year starts.

With best wishes,

–Sam Serrapede
–EmilyAnn Frances May


We will be on a one month holiday break starting this week.  See you all in the New Year.



31d-Interlude: Memorial Day Weekend 2016 in Bay Ridge

We are enjoying beautiful weather here in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, NY.  Spring is moving into Summer and the prelude is gorgeous.  I took a walk yesterday to Ridge Boulevard and eventually meandered down towards Shore Road.  I never tire of the many moods that the time of day, the weather and the people enjoying the parkland create.  These photos were taken after 6 p.m. Since this is a holiday weekend the mood was much different than a regular weekend.  There was a sense of relaxation and calm as people lingered to enjoy the view of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, Staten Island and all the boats gliding on the water.

I hope you’ll enjoy these photos.  I’ve not added any captions because none are needed.  The mood of the holiday weekend comes across very well in each photo.  If you went away this weekend or are planning a vacation, please tell us about it.

A walk along Shore Road, Memorial Day Weekend, Saturday May 28, 2016




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27a-Spring Break 2016


Tammy, our little office assistant at Through The Byzantine Gate, is looking forward to springtime in Bay Ridge.

Uncle Sammy and I are going on Spring Break starting this week.  There are so many holidays coming all at once.  It’s impossible to stay with a routine!  There is St. Patrick’s Day, Palm Sunday, the first day of Spring, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and April Fool’s Day.  A break is in order.

A mood of gaiety is setting in as the buds on the trees become fuller, the days longer and bright yellow daffodils fill the flower shops.  Little by little Winter is leaving.  Two weeks ago I polished the curio cabinet and set up the collectibles and mementos my late Mom left me.  A small votive candleholder with painted pink roses has written across it:  “Bright Spring, New Beginnings!”

We hope this is true for everyone in a wonderful and beautiful way.  We’ll be back to regular posting in April.



Dec. 21, 2014: Memories of Christmas Past in Dyker Heights

December 21, 2014
For me there is no place like Dyker Heights, Brooklyn.  I grew up in this neighborhood and when I have time I go back to visit St. Bernadette’s Shrine Church.  Afterwards I walk through the streets where so much happened and where many good times were had with my best friends during Junior High School and High School.  My maternal and paternal Grandparents lived here as well as many relatives on both sides of the family, too.

When I was growing up Dyker Heights was like a secret hidden away.  Very few people outside of the immediate area knew much about it unless they’d grown up there.  It was well known amongst the Italian-American community as a place with good bakeries and great Italian restaurants.  As a child my favorite bakeries were Your Baker and Mona Lisa.  The Italian restaurant my paternal Aunt favored was Romano’s on 13th Avenue near 70th Street.  While I loved their food there was nobody who could cook Italian the way my maternal Grandma Josie Muro Serrapede could.  Christmas Eve at her house was a feast filled with a dinner called “Frutta del Mar” which means fruit of the sea. An abundance of seafood like squid, octopus, clams, and shrimps was served.  This would be accompanied by pasta and a salad. Dessert consisted of demitasse and a confection called struffoli, which is a type of honeyball combined with sprinkles and candied cherries and orange peel.

This was followed by midnight mass at Regina Pacis Church.  After mass a small group might return to my Grandparents’ house for another hour of conversation accompanied by an Italian liqueur like Strega, Sambucca or Amaretto.

Sleep would come, deep and peaceful.  On Christmas morning all of Dyker Heights would be still, calm and oh-so-very-quiet.  If there was snow you could almost think there would be a Santa Claus and if you were more inclined you’d believe that the Christ child was at work in the world once more bringing hope and wonder back to our lives.

It is the memory of these events and people that keep me rooted very deeply in the borough where I was born.  The history of this borough and New York City are also my history.  In these streets and communities past and present I connect and take meaning in my life.

These are some of the thoughts that come to my mind as I walk the streets of Dyker Heights to experience the wonder of the Christmas lights on display.  I say experience because it is more than a passive intake to me.  And unlike a tourist seeking out a novelty or an amusement I find something very deep and moving in the efforts the residents make to share their joy so freely with others.

Mother’s Day 2014

Mom and Me 1934
My Mom, Emily Leatrice and me. Early 1954.

April 21, 2014
7:09 p.m.
Cool and clear


I’m looking at one of the refrigerator magnets I bought for you back in the early 2000s. It looks brand new. You always took such good care of even the slightest trinket or bauble I gave you.

This magnet has a the quote, “There’s a special way a mom can gently fill each day with love.”

I’d like to add that even memories of a wonderful Mom can bring that love back into the present.

Everytime I see this photo I’m reminded of what you told me happened when you delivered me at Shore Road Hospital. When you heard it was a girl you began to cry. The doctor thought you had wanted a boy. You yelled at him and let him know in no uncertain terms you got exactly what you wanted, a little girl of your own.

Later on, you and me would have some colorful exchanges, too. Especially when I was a teenager. But little of that comes back to mind when I see this picture.

The way you held me and the stories you told me about my childhood reinforced that. True, sometimes we were like a rainstorm on each other’s day but like the rain the problems cleared up.

I just needed to take this time to remember you always were and will always be the most important woman in my life. There’s so much emphasis today on asking little girls to find role models amongst people they don’t know like politicians, celebrities, authors and artists. But for me it’ll always be you.

Remembering you a little bit past the date you were born into this world, April 18th.