Easter (Pasqua) plays a central role in Italy. It is the second most important festivity after Christmas: while Christmas is Jesus’ birth, Easter is his passion, death and resurrection celebrated with rituals and processions all over our country.
Easter Sunday represents the end of the Leng (Quaresima), the 40 days of fast and abstinence spent by Christ in the desert, but we celebrate also the Sunday before Easter – the Palm Sunday (La Domenica della Palme) – when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem. Catholic tradition wants palm leaves and olive branches (in our region we use the second ones) to be blessed during a large ceremony, then distributed to the faithful. Many churches still follow the tradition of having the priest knock three time from the outside of the closed church doors to symbolize Jesus’ entry in to Jerusalem.
In Italy, on the occasion of Easter, we also enjoy a period of vacation as in many other countries. The Easter holiday begins on Good Friday (Venerdì Santo), which is not a national holiday but it is the same very important for the Church who commemorates Christ’s Passion with the Via Crucis (Stations of the Cross) and the faithful abstain from eating meat on this day. But, on Easter the solemnity and abstinence of Holy Week come to a joyous end and we celebrate the Resurrection with the loved ones.
The lamb accompanied by seasonal vegetables is generally the main course of the typical Easter menu, which ends with “la Colomba” – a cake shaped like a dove filled with candied fruit and covered with icing and almonds – and the chocolate Easter egg, that contains a little surprise for the kids.
By us not only Easter Sunday is a nationally observed holiday! Also the Monday immediately after is a national holiday, called Pasquetta (“Little Easter”) or Lunedì dell’Angelo (Angel’s Monday). While Easter Sunday is a time to gather round with the family, Easter Monday is usually spent with friends. There is a famous saying in Italy: “Natale con i tuoi. Pasqua con chi vuoi” (“Christmas with your family. Easter with whoever you want”). So Pasquetta is generally dedicated to outdoor trips or picnics and we try to get out of town at least for this day. It is the first holiday after the winter period…Spring is coming and we cannot miss the change to enjoy a wonderful outdoor day!
This is our way to celebrate Easter and yours?
Buona Pasqua e Buona Pasquetta a tutti! (Happy Easter and Happy Little Easter to everybody!)