Learn how Italians celebrate Easter

By Go! Go! Italia staff
26 Mar 2024
Reading Time: 3 minutes
Photo of how Italians celebrate Easter

Indulging in chocolate eggs, enjoying Easter bread shaped like doves, and often seeking shelter from the rain while attempting picnics are a few distinctive traditions that characterize how Italians celebrate Easter.

From North to South, Italians mark this special occasion with a blend of religious customs and cultural festivities that make Italian Pasqua (Easter), an unique experience.

Holy Week and spiritual reflection

For many Italians, Easter holds profound religious significance as the pinnacle of the Christian calendar, commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The week leading up to Domenica di Pasqua (Easter Sunday), known as Settimana Santa (Holy Week), is marked by solemn processions, prayers, and rituals in churches and towns nationwide. These traditions are integral to how Italians celebrate Easter.

Each region has its unique way of observing these sacred days, often blending local customs with religious practices.

Photo of how Italians celebrate Easter

Easter Sunday feast: a culinary extravaganza

La Domenica di Pasqua (Easter Sunday) is a day when families gather around beautifully arranged tables, enjoying a feast of delicious food. Easter’s menus usually have lamb as the main dish, symbolizing Christ’s sacrifice. Italians prepare it in various ways—roasted, braised, or stewed.

Eggs, whether dyed or cooked, hold significant importance in the Italian Easter celebration. They symbolize renewal and rebirth.

However, in Italy, chocolate eggs take center stage. These delightful treats are beloved by kids because they contain little surprises hidden within their centers. While children are typically the recipients, adults as well indulge in feasting on these delicious chocolate threats.

La Colomba di Pasqua, a dove-shaped cake baked with candied fruits and almonds, is another iconic symbol of how Italians celebrate Easter. This delightful treat symbolizes peace and resurrection. Similar to panettone eaten for Christmas, Colomba is made with flour, eggs, sugar, and candied fruits.

Photo of how Italians celebrate Easter

How Italians celebrate Easter

One of the most famous Easter celebrations in Italy takes place in Rome, where thousands gather in St. Peter’s Square to attend the Pope’s Easter Mass. On Venerdì Santo (Good Friday), the Pope leads the Via Crucis near the Colosseum in Rome, where the Stations of the Cross are recounted in multiple languages, accompanied by a towering cross illuminated by burning torches. The event concludes with a blessing from the Pope.

In addition to attending Mass, many Italians participate in the Stations of the Cross, a symbolic reenactment of Jesus’ final hours before his crucifixion. These processions, often held in town squares or along cobblestone streets, are a solemn reminder of the sacrifices made by Jesus for humanity’s salvation.

Throughout Italy, you’ll also find a variety of local Easter traditions that add to the richness of the holiday. In Sicily, for example, it’s common to see elaborate processions featuring life-sized statues depicting scenes from the La Passione di Cristo (Passion of Christ).

In Florence, locals celebrate with the Scoppio del Carro, or “Explosion of the Cart,” a spectacle involving a decorated cart filled with fireworks that dates back to medieval times.

Photo of How Italians celebrate Easter in san pietro

Pasquetta and the rain curse

Easter Monday, also known as Pasquetta or “Little Easter,” is a delightful time for relaxation and outdoor activities spent with family and friends. Italians seize the opportunity to to enjoy picnics in the countryside, go for leisurely walks, or participate in traditional games and sports.

However, there’s a twist: like clockwork, rain tends to make an appearance on Pasquetta day, literally every year. Italians also have a say for it: A Paquetta piove sempre, meaning on Easter Monday it always rains.

Easter, a holiday that shifts in date each year, symbolizes the arrival of spring. Occurring anywhere from late March to early April, it consistently falls amidst a season characterized by notable weather changes, making rain a high possibility. Yet, Italians maintain a positive outlook, upholding the tradition of Pasquetta picnic until the first raindrop falls from the sky.

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