Easter in Italy has a different feel from Easter in the states. I know that sounds vague, but you know the way days feel different. Saturdays have a Saturday feel. And that feeling is different from a Sunday feel and distinctly different from a Monday feel.
Mondays are easy. It has to do with alarm clocks and that creeping sense of duty that seeps in even before your mind is fully functioning. Mondays start out as Mondays and they pretty much stay that way. Saturdays and Sundays have a weekends feel. But still, Sundays feel different from Saturdays. That’s what I’m driving at.
That’s the way it is with holidays too. You don’t confuse Valentine’s Day with Mother’s Day, even if they are both about the heart. So, you get the point. I’m postulating that Easter in Italy feels different from Easter in the states. Let me try to sort that out.
We all know that Easter is a holiday commemorating the resurrection. It’s the holiest day on the Christian calendar. In both countries, it falls on the same day and in both countries its feel – there’s that word again — extends beyond religion. It’s also about the renewal of spring. It’s about feasting after lent.
In Italy, it’s also about friends. There’s a saying here: “Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi.” The literal interpretation is, “Christmas with yours, Easter with whomever you want.” You get it: Christmas with your family, Easter with your friends.
You can find Easter folklore and faith, tradition and pageantry in both places, but it’s a little easier to find in a country that is 85 percent Catholic. Every town has an elaborate celebration, procession, mass or reenactment.
In many villages, priests spend Holy Week blessing homes and shops. In the main piazza of one Abruzzo town, a woman dressed all in black walks among townsfolk dressed in the green and white colors of peace. She represents the sorrowful Virgin Mary. But as she approaches the fountain, doves are released and her dress magically changes to green.
In Florence, oxen pull a cart loaded with fireworks to Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. Following mass, the Archbishop sends a dove-shaped rocket into the cart, igniting the fireworks and kicking off a parade in medieval costumes.
There are many elaborate and imaginative events throughout the country during Holy Week, which incidentally doesn’t end on Sunday. Easter Monday (Pasquetta) is also a national holiday with creative celebration.
In Italy, it’s hard to find an Easter Bunny and easy to find Easter foods. You probably know that foods in Italy are both regional and seasonal. People give torta (cakes) as Easter gifts and children find surprises inside their chocolate eggs.
But that’s not the Easter feel I’m trying to describe.
Early this Holy Week, I heard people in the stores and the piazzi wishing each other “Buona Pasqua.” There’s no doubt that you can hear many “Happy Easter”s in the states. But just the frequency of best wishes (“auguri”) here set me to thinking and observing. What I saw was people scurrying around buying food and drink and making preparations just as if it were Christmas week. Can you describe the feel of Christmas week? In Italy the children had the same countenance, expectation, anticipation. Their parents and their parents’ friends on the strata and via had holiday spirit. And that’s what I mean. In both countries, Easter can be a mix of religion and renewal, but in the states, Easter can feel solemn, and in Italy it feels merry.