Don Luigi's Facts About Easter In Italy

To say Happy Easter in Italian you say buona Pasqua.  This actually means 'good Easter.'

If a baby is born around the time of Easter, then it is common to name the baby Pasquale (for a boy) or Pasqualina (for a girl). 
So, if you meet an Italian called Pasquale, there is a good chance that his birthday is in March or April!

Holy Week is called La Settimana Santa.  The beginning of Holy Week is Palm Sunday - la domenica delle Palme

In Italy, during La Settimana Santa, the towns have many street processions.

In Don Luigi's home town of Alghero, the first procession of Holy Week takes place on martedì (Tuesday). During the processions, some people carry a statue of Gesù and others carry a statue of La Madonna. Each statue stands on a platform that rests on the carriers' shoulders.



Thousands of people watch the processions from balconies or from the pavement.

In Alghero many residents attach red light bulbs to their balconies so that they illuminate the route of the processions at night.

 
Don Luigi Formby

During the processions there is music from a brass band and sometimes there is a choir.  After each procession, everyone talks about their experience, e.g. where they were standing if they were spectating or what they did if they were participating.  Everyone in the town seems to be involved!  

The most solemn procession takes place on il Venerdì Santo (Good Friday).  This is the day when we remember the death of GesùDuring this procession, ladies follow the statues.  They are dressed in black and wear black veils.  They say prayers as they walk and they carry red lanterns.  It is a very long procession and it starts at 11 o'clock at night.  


Don Luigi Formby
In addition to carrying the statues, there are some men who carry a heavy cross, ladders and nails.  The procession finishes inside the cathedral where there is an enactment of The Crucifixion - La Crocifissione. 

On Good Friday, il Venerdì Santo, in Italy we do not eat meat.  It would be considered wrong to eat anything containing meat on this day. This is the day when everyone remembers the death of Gesù.  In Italy, it is the tradition to eat fish (il pesce) and foods such as vegetables, pasta, fruit and bread on Good Friday.

On Maundy Thursday, (il Giovedì Santo), at 3 p.m., there is a special ceremony in the churches during which all the church bells are tied so that they cannot ring.  The bells remain silent in remembrance of the death of Gesù
Then, on Easter Day they ring again, to celebrate The Resurrection (La Risurrezione di Gesù
).


Easter Day is La Domenica di Pasqua.  In Don Luigi's home town of Alghero, on Easter Day, there is a special event at about 11 o'clock in the morning:-  Two separate processions take place at the same time. 
In one procession a statue of
Gesù is carried and in the other they carry a statue of La MadonnaEach procession finishes in the town square (la piazza) where the two statues meet.
Don Luigi Formby In this photo you can see the statue of La Madonna as She is taken to meet the statue of Gesù.


This is a very happy procession as it celebrates Ges
ù Risorto.
As soon as the two statues meet each other, some men fire guns into the sky! 
The firing of guns to announce the Resurrection of Jesus is a tradition in Italy.  In fact, in Florence they take the gunpowder tradition very seriously indeed!  Every year on Easter Day in Florence there is a crazy tradition called Lo Scoppio del Carro It means 'the explosion of the cart.'  A tall structure in the shape of a dovecote is positioned in La Piazza del DuomoIt is laden with fireworks!  A mechanical dove ignites the structure, resulting in an enormous display of exploding fireworks.  It is extremely noisy.  This tradition has existed for about 1000 years!  It is said that the fire will bring good harvests and good luck to the area.  The fire is called 'nuovo fuoco'' meaning 'new fire.'

On Easter Day, Italians eat chocolate Easter eggs (le uova di Pasqua).  It is the Italian tradition to find a small surprise gift inside the egg.   The surprise gift is called una sorpresa. Children are always excited to break open the egg to see what is inside!   Often there is a disappointing gift, such as a plastic comb or a cheap rain hat, even in the most enormous and expensive eggs!

Italian Easter eggs are very beautifully and artistically wrapped, with shiny foil paper and a big bow. The photo below was taken at Agriturismo Le Coccinelle, Alghero, Sardinia.   There was a very disappointing gift inside this egg - it was a plastic rain hat!
Don Luigi Formby
Don Luigi Formby

Another traditional Italian food for Easter Day is a special cake called una colomba, meaning - a dove. 
The dove is a symbol of peace.

The cake is in the shape of a dove with open wings.  It is made from a plain, light sponge with sugar crystals and almonds sprinkled on top.  

 

 In Italy on Easter Day, it is the tradition to eat lamb (agnello) for the main course at dinner. 

The day after Easter Day, (on Monday), is called Pasquetta.  In Italy it is the tradition for children to go on trips to the countryside, or for families to spend the day outside in the open air, having a picnic. 


 
Some More Italian Easter Facts:

Did you know that the real staircase that Jesus walked up for His trial an be found in Rome? It is called La Scala Santa and it was transported from Jerusalem to Rome by Saint Helena (Sant' Elena) in the year 326 AD.

The staircase belonged to the house where Pontius Pilate lived.

The tradition is to go up the staircase on your knees, whilst praying.

In some central areas of Italy, they eat an Easter pizza (una pizza di Pasqua.)

This can be sweet or savoury. It is deep and round.
  On Easter Day, the area of Vaticano in Rome becomes overcrowded with thousands of people who wait for The Pope (Il Papa) to speak from the balcony of St. Peter's Basilica.  This is known as the Easter Papal Address. 
Italians watch the event on the television because it is very important to hear his messaggio.
             Buona Pasqua!