Easter Traditions in Italy

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Easter is an important time in Italy, not only from religious, but also from spiritual and family perspective. Learning more about Italian celebrations and events around Easter time and getting to know the traditions so meaningful and dear to Italians will bring you richer cultural experience when you travel to Italy.

The Meaning of Easter

Holy Week, or La Settimana Santa, is a Christian tradition dating back to the Middle Ages. This observance, which begins with Palm Sunday and culminates in Easter Sunday, celebrates events including the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Palm Sunday, also known as the Sunday of the Passion, marks the entry of Christ into Jerusalem, and is usually celebrated by a blessing of palm leaves and readings from the Scripture detailing the occasion. This is followed by a procession into a church holding Mass, where gospels about the suffering of Jesus Christ before his death, are read. The next big event, Maundy Thursday, celebrates the Last Supper with Christ’s disciples, and also inaugurates the last day before Good Friday. Often called Holy Friday, this day is used to commemorate the agony of the death of Jesus on the cross and is observed through a day long fast. Popular activities on this day center on the significance of holy water, the cross, penance, as well as blessing the sick, and praying the Stations of the Cross. The biggest event, Easter Sunday, is a day for feasting, celebrating the resurrection of the Christ, spending time with family, and giving devotion to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

La Settimana Santa in Italy

Although the entirety of Holy Week is celebrated with colorful spectacles, traditional sweets, and opportunities for families to commemorate together, Good Friday and Easter Sunday are especially known for their passionate processions and religious proceedings. The Sacred Representation of Good Friday, or Sacra Rappresentazione Del Venerdì Santo, is a procession held in many towns throughout Italy, which welcomes volunteers to take part by reading texts from the Scriptures, or by singing songs that celebrate the resurrection of Christ. Later on, the celebration of the Lord’s Passion, taking place in St. Peter’s Basilica, is be led by the Pope, who also performs the final ceremony of Good Friday, the Via Crucis, at the Colosseum in Rome. The events of Good Friday are sacred and special not only because of their religious significance, but because they are emblematic of the historical relationship between Roman Catholicism and vibrant Italian culture.

The extravagant and poignant events on Good Friday share the spotlight with the meaningful traditions of Easter Sunday. Easter festivities commence early in the morning with the Abballu Di Li Diavuli, or Dance of the Devils, in which two individuals dress up in red costumes and grotesque masks, joined by a third member dressed in yellow clothing and make-up, representing death. They leap through the streets, tempting the observers with treats, until they are confronted and defeated by statues of the resurrected Christ, the Virgin Mary, accompanied by protective angels with swords. This battle, which dates back to the medieval period, serves as a representation of good versus evil, and of the inevitable triumph of good. Another Easter Sunday tradition intertwined with the origins of modern Christianity is the Scoppio Del Carro, or Explosion of the Cart, which recounts the tale of a brave Crusade knight who, upon planting the flag of the Holy Cross on the newly conquered Jerusalem, was awarded stones from the Holy Sepulcher of Christ; stones used in present-day ceremonies to start the fire on Easter Sunday serve as a symbolic reminder of the recapture of Jerusalem.

Easter Sweets and More

Of course one cannot talk about Easter in Italy without mentioning the food! Colorful sweets that are elaborately decorated and beautifully presented are the highlight of Italian Easter traditions. Easter eggs, a popular Easter treat, come in thousands of different patterns and colors, and are made from chocolate and other sweet varieties. Decorating eggs became a conventional form of Easter fun during the medieval period, when ancient festivals mixed effortlessly with Christian traditions. Since antiquity Spring festivals were held in expectations of the nature’s bloom and fertile season ahead, while eggs and rabbits alike were strong symbols of fertility. Another delicious treat to look forward to is the famous Pastiera Napoletana, thought to be the creation of a nun from a Neapolitan covenant. This pastry is thought to have been created especially for Easter, since it makes use of ingredients which emphasize the fresh, distinct aromas of spring. Pastiera Napolitana must be started on a few days before expected consumption, however, as the flavors must be allowed to mix and blend until Sunday, so be sure to start this one soon! But perhaps most famous Italian Easter sweet is Colomba Pasquale, or the Easter Dove cake, a traditional treat with roots as far back the 6th century when a Lombard King commissioned bread leavened in the shape of a dove for peace. The charm of this crowd pleaser is the simplicity of its recipe, as well as its meaningful ties to the origins of Easter Sunday traditions.

While sweets are a nice ending to a traditional Easter dinner, there are lots of wonderful flavorful dishes typically served on Italian Easter dinner tables. Typical Easter dinner in Italy includes a roasted lamb, a custom borrowed from earlier forms of Passover, in which the sacrifice of a lamb was thought to bring peace and safety for the family. For those living in the northern parts of Europe or the United States, a popular choice is usually ham. The popularity of this choice originates with the process of slaughtering pigs in the winter, and salting and smoking them until spring, just in time for Easter dinner.

Enrich Your Easter with Beautiful Murano Glass from Glass of Venice

Easter is a time of new beginnings and freshening up your home décor is a great way to enjoy the bloom of Spring. Our charming Murano Art Glass Gold Millefiori Rabbit Sculpture, created by skilled and innovative Murano glass masters is a great fit for Easter and a fine symbol of Spring. Our colorful vases, pitchers and tumblers, as well as fine tableware make any home look festive and bring sophisticated Italian accent to your home decor.

Choose from wider selections by visiting our website, and have a happy Easter from all of us at GlassofVenice.com!

by Kevin Grinberg

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