Six Easter-inspired Italian phrases explained

Six Easter-inspired Italian phrases explained
Italians often say you can spend Easter with whoever you like. Photo: Paige Cody/Unsplash
The Italian language is laden with Easter-related expressions, but some can be used all year round. Here are six top Italian sayings linked to the springtime religious holiday you can throw in to conversation now.

Easter is a key event on Italy’s calendar, usually marked by nationwide festivities and events. Of course, this year’s lockdown restrictions prevent celebrations and it’s set to be a much more reserved affair.

It’s still permitted to visit friends and family though, so here are some Easter sayings to show off your linguistic chops.

1. Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi

This phrase is often batted about to explain where you should be spending key holidays. It means that you should spend Christmas with family, but Easter can be celebrated with whoever you fancy. This is especially the case for Pasquetta (“Little Easter”) or Easter Monday, which is usually a day for hanging out with friends over a barbecue or a trip to the seaside.

Easter is a time for hanging out with friends and abandoning familial duty. In theory. Photo: Kimson Doan/Unsplash

That’s not permitted this year, so be prepared for more family meals. But let’s face it, it’s tough to refuse invitations from all the relatives and this phrase might not get you out of yet another, albeit quieter, feast this year.

READ ALSO: Traditional Italian Easter food you can make at home during lockdown

2. Felice come una Pasqua

Here is one of those phrases that doesn’t make sense if you literally translate it into English: “Happy as Easter”.

You can get the sense though, which is that someone is really happy. You could translate it as, “Happy as Larry”. Easter signifying pure joy comes from marking the end of Lent. Fasting and repentance of sins are over – now is the time for cheerfulness, springtime, travel and brighter days to come.

READ ALSO: 12 signs you’ve cracked the Italian language

As happy as Easter. Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash

3. Lungo come una Quaresima

Speaking of Lent, this Italian expression describes a process that is long, dull and seemingly endless.

It literally means, “As long as Lent”, which lasts 40 days in the run up to Easter and involves plenty of praying and the giving up of vices.

You can probably see the similarity between this word and “quarantena” (quarantine), which stems from the Italian word “quaranta” (forty). That was the number of days people had to stay in isolation in times of the Black Plague.

40 days would feel a long time on this diet. Photo: Kamil Szumotalski/Unsplash

READ ALSO: The top ten Italian words that just don’t translate into English

So you could say, “Il Lockdown è lungo come una Quaresima”, to describe the seemingly endless national restrictions. If only the measures were the length of Lent.

4. Quando Pasqua verrà il 25 aprile

Speaking of waiting for the impossible to happen, this phrase describes an extremely rare event, such as the English expression, “Pigs might fly”.

It literally means, “When Easter comes on April 25th”. But what’s so significant about that date?

In the Gregorian calendar, this is the date least likely to be Easter and so denotes an unusual occurrence. Legend has it that God made a promise to the devil that he could enter paradise if Easter ever fell on April 25th.

In fact, Italians split Easter dates into three categories:

Pasqua bassa (short Easter) – if Easter falls between March 22nd and April 2nd 
Pasqua media (medium Easter) – if Easter falls between April 3rd and April 13th 
Pasqua alta (tall Easter) – if Easter falls between April 14th and April 25th

When will we be able to go out for an Aperitivo with friends again? Quando Pasqua verrà il 25 aprile.

Eating another Italian lunch is a cross to bear. Photo: Aaron Burden/Unsplash

5. Portare la propria croce

If you really want to play the violin, you can use this Italian phrase that means, “to carry one’s own cross”, just as Jesus is believed to have done in Holy Week. You might say in English that we “have a cross to bear”.

We infer, therefore, that someone is dealing with a lot of pain and experiencing tough times if they use this phrase.

Brush the cobwebs away with some ‘Easter cleaning’. Photo: Daniel Appen/Unsplash

6. Le pulizie di Pasqua

Time to banish the drab and all that no longer serves you, as this saying means, “The cleaning of Easter”. “Le pulizie di primavera” is also often used, which is closer to the English equivalent of “spring cleaning”.

Easter cleaning means new life, joy, leaving the grey of winter behind and welcoming new colours of blooming flowers. A saying goes, “L’olivo benedetto vuol trovar pulito e netto”, which means, “The blessed olive tree wants to find things clean and clear”.

Great, so now even the trees are judging you for your dirty hob.

Even though cleaning is almost akin to a national sport in Italy, this is a particular time for even more meticulous washing – it’s a representation of change and a transition from winter to spring.

READ ALSO: There’s more to Easter than eggs: Italy’s delicious alternatives to Easter chocolate

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