Today I wanted to talk about one of the major holidays celebrated in Italy, Easter! I thought it'd be cool to describe some of the fantastic Easter traditions that are practiced throughout Italy! Second only to Christmas, Pasqua (or, 'Easter') is the busiest time on the year for most Italian businesses and communities. With exciting festivities, and of course amazing food, you will be wanting to spend Pasqua with the Italians next year!
Whether you happen to be religious or not, I though it'd be good to talk about the days leading up to Easter called 'La Settimana Santa' (Holy Week).
What is 'Holy Week'?
Before we dive into all the fantastic cultural activities, here is a brief description of the different days that make up 'Holy Week'.
- Palm Sunday - Beginning Holy Week, Palm Sunday is celebrated on the Sunday before Easter Sunday.
- Holy Thursday - The Thursday during Holy Week, commemorating the Lord's Supper.
- Good Friday - The Friday during Holy Week. This is the day in remembrance of the crucifixion of Jesus.
- Pasqua - Easter Sunday, of course, celebrating the day that Jesus rose from the dead.
- Pasquetta - Literally translating into "little Easter", this is the Monday following Easter Sunday and is a day filled with celebration throughout Italy.
Holy Week Festivities
Pasqua in Rome
Rome is a mecca for Catholic pilgrims during the two weeks leading up to Pasqua. If you are visiting the area during this time of year and are wanting to go out to eat, be sure to:
1) See if the restaurant is open
2) Make a reservation in advance
It is not uncommon for businesses to close for Good Friday and to remain closed until after Pasquetta.
Visitors gather in Rome at 5pm on Good Friday to celebrate mass with the Pope at St. Peter's Basilica and then follow a candle lit procession that includes 14 stops for prayer. The procession commemorates Via Crucis, or the walk of Christ and ends in front of the Colosseum.
Misteri di Trapani
Located in Sicily, the town of Trapani is host to the Good Friday celebration of Misteri di Trapani. The celebration, dating before 1612, includes a parade of 20 different floats made of wood consisting of individual scenes of the Passion of Christ. Lasting at least 16 hours, it is common for the procession to continue well over 24 hours!
Scoppio del Carro
On the morning of Pasqua in Florence, thousands gather for Scoppio del Carro or La Festa del Carro ('Explosion of the Cart'). This celebration includes a parade of 150 soldiers, musicians, and people dressed in 15th century attire. The people follow behind an antique cart pulled by white oxen. This festival, dating, over 350 years, concludes with a rocket in the shape of a dove holding an olive branch being launched into the cart setting off a fireworks display! This is one of the few things I have yet to see in Florence yet, have you seen it? Let me know in the comments!
On Pasquetta in Panicale, in the Umbria district of Italy, the locals host their cheese-rolling competition known as Ruzzolone. During the competition, wheels of cheese are rolled down the streets of Panicale. The person to make it around the village walls in the fewest "strokes" wins the competition and gets to keep the cheese. Although, I'm not sure how appetizing cheese that has been rolled all over the ground would be! ;)
Also held on Pasquetta in the Emilia-Romagna town of Tredozio, is the festival known as Pallia dell'uovo. The entire day is filled with activities, games, and competitions revolving around eggs, including an egg eating competition!
Similar to the United States, the dyeing of Easter eggs is a common activity for children in Italy. Sometimes they are hand painted with intricate designs, and sometimes they are solid colors. Instead of using store bought egg dye, they color their eggs with homemade dye made from boiled fruits and vegetables.
Of course, we can't talk about Italian culture without mentioning the food! Here are a few Pasqua delicacies that are certain to make your mouth water.
Children in Italy look forward to these chocolate covered eggs all year long. Beautifully decorated and delicious, inside you can find hidden surprises! They also have the Kinder chocolate eggs too!
These shortbread cookies, dolci pasquali, can be found all throughout Italy during Easter time. Commonly given as gifts, they can be found in the shape of bunnies, ducks, chickens, eggs, and other springtime symbols.
This dish, casatiello, is a salty cake filled with salami, cheese, sausage, and hard boiled egg. It is a common to find these at Easter dinners throughout Italy.
Unlike the United States, where ham is an Easter dinner staple, you are more likely to find a tender lamb at Easter dinner in Italy.
Pupi con L'uova
The Easter season is the premier time to find sweets in Italy, including cakes, cookies, and chocolates. This dessert, known as Pupi con l'uova is something that children look forward to every year. For girls, this pastry is shaped into a baby doll, whereas it can be found in different animal shaped for boys. The pastry is wrapped around hard boiled eggs that are typically dyed red.