La Pasqua in Italia
To read the page whilst listening to Claudia's Italian Opera Jukebox, click on the button.
On this occasion, Claudia recommends Track 4, sung by Luciano Pavarotti,
followed by Track 13, from Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni.
Andiamo in Italia per Pasqua!
1. To say Happy Easter in Italian you say
buona Pasqua. This actually means 'good Easter.'
2 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.
3. Preparations for Easter begin in the days leading up to Shrove Tuesday. In Italian, this period is called Carnevale.
It is a time when children dress up in fancy costumes and there are street parades and parties. Everyone eats lots and has a good time.
Me and my friends, we paint our faces and we look really silly! Even mio papà (my dad) dresses up.
He looks really silly. Che vergogna!
4. At Carnevale it is the tradition to eat frittelle.
These are long, thin fritters and they can be sweet or savoury. They taste a bit like doughnuts.
Mia nonna (my grandma) makes fantastic frittelle.
In the days of Carnevale, everyone goes to her house because they know that there will be a big supply of
yummy frittelle. Che buone!
Sometimes, I watch mia nonna when she makes le frittelle. It is amazing to see how she pours the liquid mixture through a funnel into a frying pan and then winds it round and round into a yummy spiral-shaped fritter.
The bigger the frying pan (la padella) the bigger the fritter!
6. After all the fun of Carnevale, there is a serious period of forty days, called La Quaresima. In English, it is called Lent. It begins the day after Martedì Grasso.
The first day of La Quaresima is Ash Wednesday.
In Italian it is called il mercoledì delle Ceneri. We go to church and the priest rubs some ash onto our foreheads. The mark of ash is in the shape of a cross.
During this forty-day period we prepare for Easter and we try not to eat too much.
The period of La Quaresima ends on Giovedì Santo
(Maundy Thursday) during Holy Week.
7. The week running up to Easter Sunday is called
La Settimana Santa (Holy Week).
The first day of La Settimana Santa is called
la domenica delle Palme (Palm Sunday).
It is a happy day for children because we take a palm leaf or an olive branch to be blessed by the priest at church.
We spend time weaving the palm leaves into pretty crosses or braids so that they look attractive for when we take them to church.
We do this to remember the day when Gesù rode into Gerusalemme and the people welcomed Him by laying palm leaves on the ground in front of Him.
Afterwards, we give our blessed palm leaves and olive branches as gifts to friends and relatives. Usually, I give my palm leaf to mia nonna.
8. During La Settimana Santa there are many street processions. The processions are to remember the events leading up to the death of Gesù.
Everyone walks for miles! They follow a statue either of Gesù or His mother Maria. In Italian, Her name is
In my town, called Alghero, the first procession of Holy Week takes place on martedì (Tuesday).
Thousands of people watch the processions from balconies or from the pavement. Some people attach red light bulbs to their balconies so that they light up the route of the processions at night.
Above is my photo showing balconies lit up with red light bulbs during an Easter procession in my town Alghero.
Some men 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. The men are dressed in their smartest clothes. Some people in the processions wear long, white tunics.
In my photo above, you can see a statue being carried by a group of men.
During the processions there is a brass band playing trumpets, clarinets and drums. Sometimes, there is a choir singing.
Afterwards, everyone talks about the processions. It is very important to be involved.
9. The most important procession takes place on
il Venerdì Santo (Good Friday).
This is the day when we remember the death of Gesù.
During 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.
In my photo above, you can see ladies dressed in black and carrying red lanterns.
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.
10. On Good Friday, il Venerdì Santo, in Italy we do not eat meat. It would be considered wrong to eat anything with meat in it on this day. This is the day when everyone remembers the death of Gesù. You can only eat fish and things like vegetables, pasta, fruit and bread on this day.
11. The church bells are silent! On Easter Thursday, (il Giovedì Santo), at 3p.m., there is a special ceremony in the churches. 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).
12. Holy Week finishes with Easter Sunday -
la Domenica di Pasqua. This is a great day for children. Everyone is very happy and is celebrating
La Risurrezione di Gesù.
In my 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 Madonna.
Each procession finishes in the town square (la piazza)
where the two statues meet.
In my photo you can see the statue of La Madonna as She is taken to meet the statue of Gesù.
As soon as Gesù and La Madonna meet each other,
some men start firing guns into the sky! It sounds very dangerous but it is a special kind of gun that they use.
All the children cover their ears because it is very loud!
When we go home, to celebrate we eat chocolate eggs
(le uova di Pasqua). Inside the egg there is a surprise gift called una sorpresa. Children are always excited to break open the egg to see what is inside!
Italian Easter eggs are very beautifully and artistically wrapped, with shiny foil paper and a big bow.
In fact, when I was a toddler, everyone said that I looked like an Easter egg because I usually wore a ribbon tied in a big bow on top of my head.
Above is a photo of a giant Easter egg at the restaurant of
mio zio Mario - my uncle Mario. This Easter egg was made with dark chocolate (cioccolato fondente) and it was DELIZIOSO.
13. Another important thing that we eat on Easter day is a special cake called una colomba.
The word colomba actually means 'dove.' The cake is in the shape of a dove with open wings. It is a sponge cake with sugar crystals and almonds sprinkled on top.
Mi piace molto! I like it very much!
Why is the cake in the shape of a dove?
Well, the dove is a symbol of peace.
14. On Easter Sunday we eat lamb (agnello.)
In Italy, lamb is the traditional meat to eat on this day.
The whole family goes to my nonna's house because she is the best cook.
Here is a typical menu for Easter Day in my family:-
Antipasti: Formaggio, una selezione di salami, olive.
Il primo: Cappelletti (pasta in the shape of 'little hats').
Il secondo: Agnello al rosmarino con patate al forno. Verdure.
Il dolce: Frutta. La colomba. Le formaggielle (sweet pastries made with ricotta).
On the table there is always molto pane (lots of bread),
vino (wine), acqua (water) and finocchio (fennel).
All my aunts (le mie zie), mia nonna and mia mamma prepare the food in the kitchen and usually they argue about how to do things.
There is always a lot of shouting in the kitchen.
Cooking is very important in Italy.
I think that the ladies in my family should have an extra-large colomba - because the dove will bring them peace!
The men sit patiently at the table, nibbling antipasti and chatting whilst they wait for the delicious food.
There are so many people at my nonna's house on Easter Day that we don't have enough room at the table or enough chairs. There is always a lot of noise because everyone is talking and laughing and generally feeling very happy.
It is Easter Day and we are having lots to eat.
15. The day after Easter Sunday, on Easter Monday, 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. This day is called Pasquetta.
I hope you have enjoyed reading my page about Easter.
For an Easter quiz, click HERE.
To sing along to an Italian song, click HERE.
If you would like to know some more interesting facts, then take a look below:-
1. Did you know that the real staircase that Jesus walked up for His trial can 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.
2. Every Easter Sunday 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 dove's house (a dovecote) is brought to the Piazza del Duomo. It is laden with fireworks. A mechanical dove ignites the structure, resulting in an enormous display of exploding fireworks. It is very noisy.
This crazy and dangerous tradition has existed for about 1000 years! It is said that the fire will bring good harvests and good luck to the area for the year ahead. The fire is called 'nuovo fuoco' meaning 'new fire.'
3. 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.
4. 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.
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