Easter has just passed, this year, but there’s still so much to say about it!
Even if it is not as big as Christmas, Easter is a very heartfelt celebration here in Italy. Actually, if you are a religious person, Easter is a very important feast, as it celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and there are a lot of important traditions linked to it.
If religion is not that important for you, Easter is just another reason for taking some days off, if possible, relaxing and eating good food.
Since Easter is full of traditions, typical food, and interesting stuff, I thought it would make a perfect topic for a post for the Italian Vocabulary series, where I share with you all the most useful words and phrases to be used in a certain situation.
I hope you’ll find this post interesting, don’t forget that there’s a downloadable file for you to keep with a list of all the words and sentences described in this post.
Well, let’s dive deep into Easter, then!
Since Pasqua (Easter) is mainly a religious celebration, let’s start with all the religious traditions. As you know very well, Pasqua celebrates la Resurrezione di Cristo (the Resurrection of Christ) and therefore it is a very important celebration. It comes right after Quaresima (Lent), which I talked about in my post regarding Carnival.
Quaresima is a period of penitenza (repentance) that lasts forty days. It begins on Mercoledì delle Ceneri (Ash Wednesday) and ends on Giovedì Santo (Holy Thursday), which also marks the ending of the digiuno penitenziale (repentance fasting).
As a matter of fact, during Lent you should abstain from eating certain types of food. Giovedì Santo marks the beginning of the celebrations for Easter, but there’s a very important day to be mentioned first: it’s Domenica delle Palme (Palm Sunday), which is the Sunday right before Easter and is usually celebrated with a procession and the distribution of blessed olive and palm branches in front of churches.
Coming back to Giovedì Santo, on such day there is a Holy Mass called Cena del Signore, which remembers the Last Supper of Christ. During this Mass, there is also the ritual of the Lavanda dei Piedi, when the priest washes the feet of some worshippers, just like Christ did with the Apostles during the Last Supper.
Then there’s Venerdì Santo (Holy Friday), which is the day when the Church celebrates the Passione di Cristo (the passion of Christ), his suffering on the cross. Usually, it is the day when a processione (holy procession) takes place.
It is quite common to have processions in many towns and villages, even the smallest ones, but there are some very famous ones which require a lot of preparation and took place only every two years. In Savona, for example, there’s a very famous procession with many old and precious statues carried around the city, but actually there are a lot of similar ones all around Italy.
Nothing specific happens on the Saturday before Easter, just a Veglia Pasquale, which takes place in the evening to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ and basically consists of waiting for Easter. Finally, il giorno di Pasqua (Easter Day) comes and it is celebrated with una Messa Solenne (solemn Mass) which marks the peak of Easter celebrations.
But let’s move to some more mundane things now!
For those who are not really religious, Easter is just a domenica di festa (a Sunday with something special), which is followed by Lunedì dell’Angelo or Pasquetta (Easter Monday).
Pasquetta is traditionally a day devoted to gite fuoriporta (day trips), picnics in the countryside, or just nice grigliate con gli amici (barbecues with friends). As a matter of fact, Pasquetta is also known as merendino, which means small merenda, identifying the habit of having picnics and little snacks outside.
Kids get one week of holiday, during Easter, so many people take the opportunity to go away for the holidays as well. After all, we have a saying that goes “Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi“, which basically means that you have to spend Christmas with your family but you can spend Easter with whomever you want, going wherever you feel like to.
It depends on the weather, though. As you know, Easter can fall between March 22nd and April 25th, so it can still be winter or late spring, depending on the year.
As a matter of fact, if Easter falls between March 22nd and April 2nd, we have Pasqua bassa (short Easter), if it falls between April 3rd and April 13th, we says that it’s Pasqua media (medium Easter), while if it falls between April 14th and April 25th, we say that there’s Pasqua alta (tall Easter). Ain’t it funny? I always loved this thing!
That’s all very interesting but I feel it’s time we speak about the most important topic of any celebration: food!
As it always happens in Italy, Easter has its own range of typical foods and every region has some special ones, different from those of other areas of Italy. But there are two foods which can be found everywhere in Italy at Easter: uova di cioccolato (Chocolate eggs) and colomba pasquale (Easter dove).
Easter eggs are a common treat for everybody, at this time of the year. They are supposed to be for kids only, but adults love them just the same. Probably, it’s because they remind you of when you were a child and were used to getting lots of eggs for Easter, impatiently waiting for Easter day to open them and see what was inside.
As a matter of fact, chocolate eggs are empty inside and are usually filled with a little surprise: a little toy in those destined for kids, some other stuff in those for grown-ups. Moreover, if you go to certain bakeries and pastry shops, you can have them put the present you want inside the egg. Isn’t that the coolest thing to do?
Then we have colomba pasquale, the traditional dessert we eat at Easter. It is a dove-shaped kind of cake (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. It is quite common to eat it at the end of Easter lunch and then maybe have leftovers for breakfast in the following days – just like what happens every year with panettone!
But there’s actually more!
A regional sweet that has become popular all over Italy is pastiera napoletana, the Easter dessert that originally comes from Naples. The pastiera is a tasty moist dessert with a pastry crust outer shell and is filled with ricotta, boiled whole wheat, eggs, orange flowers water, and candied fruit. If you don’t mind the strong taste of orange flowers, it’s a very amazing dessert!
As I said before, each region has its own special foods for Easter, not just desserts. In Liguria, we have the torta pasqualina, a vegetable cake that traditionally should be made with 33 layers of pastry (referring to the 33 years of Christ, when he died).
In Sardinia, it is quite common to eat agnello (lamb), but also pardulas, some kind of orange-flavored pastries filled with ricotta cheese. In Naples, you have the casatiello, some sort of salty cake which is made with pecorino cheese, salami, eggs, flour, and water, while in Rome, there are the carciofi fritti (fried artichokes) and the pizza dolce (sweet pizza). But actually, there are all sorts of different foods all around the country: that’s part of Italy, after all.
And you? Do you celebrate Easter? I’d love to know!
I hope you’ll find this post useful for your Italian vocabulary-building purposes. If you like this kind of vocabulary posts, these are the other ones:
If you have specific requests for topics and themes, just leave a comment here below or send me an email at cinzia@instantlyitaly.
I have prepared a pdf file with all the words and phrases we learned in this post. You can find it in Your Italian Toolbox, a section of Instantly Italy where you’ll find Italian learning materials. You can get access to it by subscribing here.
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