The Italian Easter

“Toc, toc, toc.” Wiping my hands on my apron, I went to the door wondering who would visit so close to lunch. “Buon giorno,” I greeted the unexpected visitor hesitantly. “Can I help you?” not really knowing what to say or do. I’d never been visited by a priest before! “Well, I’m here for the house blessing,” he informed me. “The blessing?” I asked stupidly. (Surely looking as dumb as I felt.)

Italy has many Easter traditions.

But as that was my first Italian Easter, I had no notion of the Easter house blessing, and little idea of other Italian Easter traditions, sacred or secular.

The religious aspect is still foremost.

With the house blessing playing a primary role. Because according to Roman Catholic tradition, the house is not properly blessed for the year until the priest comes to pray over it and sprinkle it with holy water.

Easter week processions also hold a prominent place. These elaborate and solemn affairs often include parishioners garbed in traditional local costumes carrying candles and statues of Mary or Christ through the street on Good Friday or throughout the week.

And the Pope’s Easter sermon is paramount. Many make a point of traveling to Rome for the Pope’s Easter sermon and annual blessing. So popular is this event that ordering tickets at least 2-6 months in advance is recommended ! Those that can’t go are expected to attend their own church or tune in to the Vatican by TV, internet, or radio.

But secular traditions are important too.

Church is usually followed a big dinner, often with pasta and lamb. And the day spent with family or friends. Because as the saying goes, “Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi voi.” (Christmas with family, Easter with whom you want.) Even though I personally think most Italians still prefer celebrating with family.

And kids decorate hard-boiled eggs.

Easter egg coloring goes back a long way. In ancient Rome they believed all life comes from the egg and so gifted them during their spring festivals. After they first dipped the boiled eggs in homemade dyes made of foods like red onion skins, beets, and carrots. But in Christian tradition Easter eggs were originally dyed red, in memory of Christ’s blood. They later came to symbolize both Christ’s resurrection and new life, and were eaten in celebration of this.

But you won’t find goody baskets or chocolate bunnies.

Or marshmallow Peeps, jelly beans or egg hunts. They’re not a part of the Italian Easter. The boiled eggs usually grace the table in a place of honor, supplying part of the meal, or get reserved for the evening meal.

But the special chocolate eggs and Colomba cakes more than make up for it!

Italy is known for these beautiful, often elaborately decorated and exquisitely wrapped eggs. Some of which are downright huge, up to 6.5 feet tall (almost 2 meters) and weighing in at 550 lbs (250 kg)!

The larger hollow eggs contain prizes, and it’s hard to say whether kids like the prize or the chocolate most! But choose carefully. Boy’s eggs have cars or sports related items. While a girl’s might contain Peppa Pig or Hello Kitty.

We even have Easter eggs for adults too, holding things like ties or costume jewelry. But if you’d like something more special, the artisan chocolate makers will concoct one with your own personalized gift inside. Some have even contained elaborate gifts like fine jewelry or tickets to exotic places!

Plus, most restaurants and coffee bars raffle off giant eggs! Buy a ticket, and if you’re the lucky winner you can eat chocolate to your heart’s content!

Or try some Colomba Cake.

These special dove-shaped panettone cakes are just like the Christmas panettone, but only sold at Easter time. And remember if you go visiting, it’s traditional to never go empty-handed. Take a Colomba Cake along!

And then you’ll get to enjoy the Pasquetta!

The Easter holiday typically starts with Good Friday, continuing through Pasquetta, meaning “little Easter.” Also known as Easter Monday this traditional picnic day is a great favorite! Although some cities also hold festivals with dances, concerts, or games, food, and good local wine!

Any more chocolate eggs take center stage. But I prefer the pasta and lamb! And the tiramisù, and coffee, and wine… But mostly I’m just thankful for all that Easter means, and that because of it we can always live in hope!

And what’s your favorite part of Easter?

Published by Signora Sheila

Missionary blogger, wife, mom, nonna. Join my simple life journey of faith and missions in small town Italy!

14 thoughts on “The Italian Easter

    1. Thanks Jennifer. Yes, there is a lot of fun in Italy’s Easter traditions. But I don’t know for sure if the priest goes around every year. Once they figured out we’re not Catholic, they stopped coming. I do know that our kids always looked forward to their egg surprises every year!

      Liked by 2 people

  1. Thank you for sharing these Italian Easter traditions, Sheila. You taught me much today! I always enjoyed coloring the Easter eggs–more recently I’ve helped my young granddaughter. Sadly, not this year! I’ll have to cheer her on as we FaceTime. Wouldn’t it be fun to try decorating eggs the Ukrainian way? Their intricate designs and rich colors are a feast for the eyes. (Maybe I could find a coloring page of Ukrainian Easter Eggs on Pinterest. That would be a lot easier!!)

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    1. It is fun, Nancy, learning all the wonderful traditions around the world! I love those Ukrainian eggs too – but don’t think I have the patience to try them! But you’re right, this will be a somewhat lonely Easter this year. Maybe we should order some homemade ravioli to cheer ourselves up! And no matter what, nothing can change the fact that Christ has risen – and that’s something to really celebrate!!

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  2. I love this post about Easter at your place in Italy. Thanks for sharing, Sheila. That’s quite a tale about the priest coming to bless the house. I would have gone after him and asked him to come back because methinks blessings are something one can’t have too much of! On Thursday night we go to the quiet, darkened church and wait in silence. Our (Anglican) priest says this is the week we should walk with Jesus, and I’m trying to bring myself to also go to Good Friday service, which I’ve not liked since I was a small child. I always go to Easter Sunday service bright and early, but this year I’m feeling like I’ve been a fairweather friend, so may go to Good Friday service too. Happy Easter when it comes, Sheila.

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    1. Happy Easter to you too Cynthia. I guess we could have gone after him, I guess the whole thing just caught us too much off guard! And yes, Good Friday is a hard thought to bear. But then, Christ knew Easter Sunday was coming. In his heart, soul, and mind he was already living his resurrection – before ever dying! And now we live it because he lives!! Buona Pasqua!

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  3. I’ve not thought of Pasquetta for so long. That was a favorite part of Easter those so many years ago. It was a rare year that the Western Pennsylvania spring allowed for al fresco dining but that didn’t stop my mother from setting out a picnic meal on her kitchen table.

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    1. Love it! We’ve done the picnic at home too. Although usually we get together with our church for a picnic/barbecue. One family has a big country home and if it rains, they are gracious enough to invite the whole lot of us to their place. And we still barbecue the lamb arrosticini (lamb chunks on sticks, as they have a large covered area on the veranda. Either way, it’s a fun day. Happy Pasqua and Pasquetta!!

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