Italian American Club of Jacksonville
PASQUA “EASTER” IN ITALY
In the Christian Church, Easter is a festival commemorating the suffering, death, and joy of Christ’s Resurrection. Easter Sunday is celebrated in Italy with much pageantry and joyous celebrations throughout the country. An old Italian saying states that “Natale con i tuoi e Pasqua con chi vuoi” (Christmas at home and Easter with whomever you want). Olive branches were often used instead or along with palms to decorate churches. Holy Week was the favorite time for priests to visit homes and shops and to bless them. The days before Easter include solemn masses and processions carrying Holy Statues with participants dressed in their cities’ traditional costumes.
Holy Thursday was my favorite of the holy days. I remember that on Thursday, my girlfriends and I would don our best clothes and would make our way downtown where the nicest churches were and visit at least three of them. We then began what was (and still is) called “The Struscio” (walking leisurely) from one church to another. The word struscio originated from the word “fruscio” because of the noise made by the long silk gowns worn by noble ladies.
Easter Sunday dinner may vary from region to region and a Neapolitan Easter dinner would include Noodle Soup, Baked Lamb or Goat with Potatoes, Fried Artichokes, Breads and Desserts. The traditional dessert is the “Pastiera Napoletana” which is a grain and ricotta pie famous for its perfume of orange blossoms and “The Colomba” (Dove) similar to Panettone. A must for Easter is also the “Casatiello” which is made with bread dough stuffed with cheeses, ham and salame.
On Easter Sunday, all over Italy, friends and family get together around tables laden with food and drinks to enjoy the meaning of the day. When I was growing up, it was our custom to recite poems that we had learned in school and to read Easter letters to our parents. These letters were hidden under napkins and read at the end of the meal. My mother and father would have tears in their eyes when we finished reading the letters.
The Monday after Easter is called “La Pasquetta” and it’s a legal holiday in Italy. This is a time to gather with family and friends and have fun. Thousands of Italians go off to the mountains or to the newly reopened beaches. They pack their picnic baskets with foods that should include macaroni omelet, (frittata di maccheroni), boiled eggs with salad, capocollo, sopressata, casatiello, and of course wine. I remember when I was about 10 years old, my family and all our neighbors used to hike to a nearby forest with loaded baskets of food, tablecloths and blankets.
Those were war days in Italy and needless to say, hardly anybody had a car although there were trains. My brothers in Naples tell me that nowadays only the young people take a picnic to parks and beaches, the older generation prefers a ride to their favorite restaurants. My Neapolitan friends and I are trying our best to keep up with these customs especially in the area of food and of course we never miss “La Pasquetta”.
Maria Hand Nicholson