Buona Pasqua! The Diverse Easter Traditions of Italy
Easter is a religious holiday celebrated in countries all over the world, and although the basic celebration is generally the same, each culture has its own traditions. Some of the most random (and exciting) traditions take place in Italy!
What can one expect when spending Easter in beautiful Italia? Well, you will not find many chocolate bunnies like here in the United States, but the Italians do love their chocolate. On Easter morning, it is tradition to give giant hollow chocolate eggs to children and loved ones. These eggs come beautifully wrapped, but are quickly destroyed as the receiver smashes it with their hand. Why? Because inside of the egg comes a little surprise—more chocolate or a little toy. The chocolate shell is then eaten (probably all in the same day).
After a morning filled with lots of chocolate, the family will get together for a large lunch. Lamb is most commonly the main dish and is accompanied by various special family recipes. Mealtime with the family is one of the most precious things in Italian culture, and it is no different on Easter.
Although it comes as no surprise that food plays a very important role during celebrations in Italy and that all of it is out-of-this-world (ranging from traditional Colomba, lamb, or pasta), not many of us would guess that Italy would be home to some of the most unique and unexpected Easter traditions. Each city and region has its own twist depending on history and local specialties.
Due to the rich Renaissance history in Florence, Scoppio del Carro is a traditional Easter ceremony in which a large, decorated wagon is led through the city by white oxen, all the way to Basilica Santa Maria del Fiore in the historic center. Masses of people follow the wagon all the way to the church, where the Archbishop sets off a dove-shaped rocket into the cart and a beautiful set of fireworks colors the sky. After the display there is parade through the city in which people dress up in medieval costumes.
Less explosively, Sulmona, a small city in the Abruzzo region (located in mid-Eastern Italy), celebrates with La Madonna Che Scappa in Piazza. During this tradition people dress in green and white, representing hope, peace, and resurrection, and gather in the piazza in the city center. One woman is dressed in black to represent the Virgin Mary, and as she walks to the fountain doves are released into the air. All of the sudden, the woman is dressed in green, symbolizing the resurrection. After this act the city celebrates with music and a feast.
Not all exciting Italian Easter traditions take place on Easter Sunday. Actually, Easter Monday is sometimes just as important as the day before in Italy, which they call La Pasquetta. On this day some cities have festivities such as concerts, dances, or some kind of game involving eggs. However, one of the most interesting La Pasquetta traditional games is played in the small Umbrian hill town of Panicale, and unsurprisingly involves more delicious food. To play Ruzzolone, the townspeople roll heavy wheels of cheese (about 9 pounds) around the village walls, and whoever gets their cheese around the village in the fewest number of strokes wins! As if racing and pushing wheels of cheese isn’t fun enough, La Pasquetta festivities continue with a concert in the piazza and plenty of wine.
Easter may seem like a fairly predictable holiday, but no country celebrates it quite like Italy. From feasts full of delicious food, to quality family time, oversized chocolate eggs, and cheese contests, the Italian Pasqua is truly a memorable experience!
By Allison Butler, Global Competency Training Intern