Spring has just begun and it’s already time to celebrate Easter!
Easter falls quite early this year and I somehow had no time to get used to the idea. It’s this coming Sunday and I was kinda caught by surprise! To be honest, I love it when it is a bit later in April because Easter for me means Spring and being outside and I don’t like it when the weather is still cold. However, I won’t complain too much and join the celebration!
Do you celebrate Easter?
Here in Italy, it is not as big as Christmas (we have so many celebrations in December I had to write quite a few posts about it) but it still is a very important feast. Obviously, it is a religious feast and all celebrations are closely related to religion. As you may already know, I am not very religious and I just take it as an opportunity to spend time with my family and friends. Easter is actually a feast to be spent with your friends, we have a saying about it too: Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi (Christmas with your family, Easter with whomever you want).
But let’s see what the Italian Easter traditions are.
First of all, let me tell you that there are a thousand different celebrations. Each region, even province, has its own way of celebrating and its peculiar traditions. It would take a much longer post to tell you about all of them, so I decided to just focus on the ones you can find more or less everywhere in Italy.
Easter is preceded by Lent, the time period of forty days that begins on Ash Wednesday. Lent is a time of prayer and penance which comes right after Carnival and it is a way to prepare for Easter day, the day of the Resurrection of Christ. The preparation for Easter comes to its climax during the Settimana Santa (Holy Week), the week right before Easter Sunday.
The Holy Week begins on Domenica delle Palme (Palm Sunday), which is the Sunday before Easter and is usually celebrated with a procession and the distribution of blessed olive and palm branches in front of churches. A procession may take place on Venerdì Santo (Good Friday), the day of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
The Domenica di Pasqua (Easter Sunday) is a day of celebration and joy, as people are finally celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. People usually go to Mass and then spend the day with the family, either at home or at the restaurant. Easter is followed by another day, Easter Monday, which is called Lunedì dell’Angelo (Angel Monday) or Pasquetta. Easter Monday is traditionally a day to be outside, with friends and family, taking a day trip or simply doing a picnic in the countryside. As a matter of fact, such day is also known as merendino, which means something like little merenda, a little afternoon snack.
And what about food?
As with celebrations and many other things in Italy, each region has its own typical food. But there are at least a couple of things which can be found everywhere. One is the Easter egg, which is a big chocolate egg with a surprise inside. Easter eggs are the traditional gift to be given at Easter and kids do their best to get as many as possible, opening them all on Easter day. The other typical Easter food you can find almost everywhere in Italy is the Colomba Pasquale (Easter Dove), a dove-shaped dessert which resembles panettone and is made with flour, sugar, eggs, butter and candied peel. As for panettone, there are many versions of this traditional recipe nowadays, with chocolate and many other ingredients.
Another amazing Easter dessert is the pastiera napoletana, which is typical of Naples but can easily be found most everywhere nowadays. The pastiera is a tasty moist dessert with a pastry crust outer shell and is filled with ricotta, boiled whole wheat, eggs, orange water and candied fruit. It’s sooo good!
However, there are many typical dishes other than desserts. At Easter it is customary to eat lamb, whose way of being cooked can change from region to region. It is also quite common to have artichokes, which are perfectly in season at this time of the year. Here in Liguria, we have a typical Easter food called torta pasqualina (Easter pie), a vegetable pie with eggs, cheese and Swiss chard, whose traditional recipe requires 33 layers of pastry – recalling the years of Christ at the time of his death.
I now realize I have written quite a lengthy post! Please bear with me, I wanted to tell you all you need to know about Easter in Italy!
Now it’s your turn, do you celebrate Easter? If so, what are your ways of doing it?
If you are interested in learning more about Italian culture and lifestyle, I’d suggest you jump on my digital Vespa and join Be Italian For A Month, your 30-day virtual journey to Italy.
You will also learn some Italian words, you’ll receive some typical Italian recipes – ready to be cooked and enjoyed, you’ll get to tour around Italy, and learn about Italian traditions, proverbs, stereotypes, you name it. Plus, some cute surprises along the way!