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The essential guide to an Italian Easter

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The essential guide to an Italian Easter
A wooden statue of Jesus is carried through the streets of Procida, off Naples. Photo: Mario Laporta/AFP
16:53 CEST+02:00
Easter in Italy means religion, yes, but also friends, family, and food. And of course, it wouldn't be an Italian holiday without a healthy dose of curious, centuries-old customs. Here's The Local's guide to the Italian Easter traditions you need to know about.

Holy Week

The week before Italy is sometimes known as Holy Week, and this plays a particularly crucial role in Sicily and Sardinia due to their historic associations with Spain. The Sardinian custom, Sa Chida Santa, borrows from Catalan traditions, with different rituals for each day of the week.

In the rest of the country however, you'll find the Easter celebrations don't get going until the actual Easter weekend...

Good Friday

The first thing to know about Good Friday in Italy is that it's not a public holiday in Italy - sorry! It's a day of mourning, marking Jesus's death, rather than of celebration.

For that reason, there aren't holy masses held, but instead parishes celebrate the Via Crucis or Stations of the Cross or hold a solemn liturgy. Keep an eye out for the crosses in the church, which will likely be covered in dark-coloured cloth

In Rome, Pope Francis will celebrate the Via Crucis or Way of the Cross, a procession from the Colosseum amphitheatre to the Palatine Hill.  Look out for the huge crucifix made up of torches, while the stations of the cross are described in several languages, before a papal blessing. This event is typically attended by tens of thousands of Romans and tourists

Processions

Elsewhere in Italy, the Via Crucis is celebrated with processions and parades on the Friday and Saturday. Those taking part may wear costumes, carry torches, crosses or statues of saints, or even act out small scenes along the way.

Chieti boasts one of the oldest parades, dating back to at least 840 AD.

In Sicily, 2,000 friars join the procession through the streets of Enna, one of the largest in the country. And if you've got the stamina, try the 24-hour parade in Trapani, where floats depicting biblical scenes pass through the town's streets.

Passion plays

While some towns hold processions to recall the suffering Jesus went through, others go a step further and act out important events from the Easter story, including his trial and death. Participants usually dress in historic costumes, and the staging will vary from the very simply to the dramatic and elaborate, depending where you are.

Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi

Here's a saying you're sure to hear over the Easter period, literally translating as 'Christmas with your relatives, Easter with whoever you want'. Breathe a sigh of relief if you weren't feeling up to another holiday filled with tension between you and your in-laws - most Italians spend the Easter holidays, particularly the Monday, celebrating and eating with friends, and family obligations are kept to a minimum.

Engagements

Easter eggs, whether chocolate or ornamental, often come with a small gift inside them in Italy. In recent years, placing a ring inside the egg has become a popular way for Italians to pop the question to their partner - so don't be surprised if a few of your Italian friends get engaged over the holiday weekend.

Pasquetta

Easter Monday is known as Pasquetta in Italy, literally 'little Easter', and as it's a public holiday, it's typical for Italians to take a day trip to the countryside and enjoy the spring weather. The other name for Easter Monday is Lunedi dell'Agnello or 'Lamb Monday' which gives a clue to the other highlight of the day: the lunch.

READ MORE: Eight of the weirdest ways Italians celebrate Easter


Photo: Carmello Giuseppe Colletti/Wikimedia Commons

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