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| "Easter" is a season which brings hope for new beginnings in nature, people and within one's self. The solemn yet joyous observance of Buona Pasqua (Easter) in Italy is celebrated with a uniqueness as different as her people. The dramatic recreations of the suffering, death and joy of Christ's Resurrection will be found throughout the regions. |
|The activities and merryment of Carnevale precede the somber overtones of the Lenten season. Colorful costumes and masks are the traditional clothes of Carnevale as well as the historical folklore themes surrounding each area's celebrations.|
|Carnevale begins in the days before Ash Wednesday in most areas, but some Carnevales may begin shortly after Epiphany in January. Some of the most famous Carnevales occur in Venice, Ivrea, and Sicily. Flowers play an important part in Sicily's festivals. And during Carnevale you will see vibrantly colored flowers adorning the carts used in their processions.|
| Food is one of the central themes of Carnevale. Because of the abstinence of meat during Lent, great feasts are prepared and enjoyed by all in the days preceding Ash Wednesday.
During Lent the Festa di San Giuseppe takes place on March 19th. People throughout Italy and Sicily honor St. Joseph with great meatless feasts in thanks for his intercession during a great drought Sicily experienced during the Middle Ages. The rich and the poor come together and celebrate the miracle of the rains which ended the drought on his feast day. (For more information about St. Joseph you can refer to my Viva San Giuseppe Page).
| On "Palm Sunday" the churches are all decorated with baskets of palms and olive branches and once they have been blessed by the priest they are given out to the congregations. Thousands of people gather in St. Peters Square on Palm Sunday to receive the palms blessed by the Pope after Mass has ended. It is a movng sight to behold.
"Holy Week" observances are somber in tone and recreations of the last hours of Christ will be found everywhere. For example in Caltanissetta on the Wednesday before Easter there is the procession of the "Real Maestranza" and the Parade folk figures known as the "Vare." On "Holy Thursday" there is a concert and an evening parade of the "Vare" is held. "Good Friday" is marked by the "Procession of the ancient Black Christ." In the town of "Nemoli" (Potenza) the death of Christ is announced by the sound of clappers echoing through the streets on Holy Thursday. And on Good Friday the Way of the Cross is recreated in a torchlight procession.
|In Calitri (Avellino) the wearing of white hoods topped by crowns of thorns are worn by members of a religious confraternity. They all bear crosses on their shoulders as they make their way thru the streets in procession. Folk songs and psalms are sung by choirs who accompany them.
In Chieti one of Italy's oldest Good Friday services are held. Traditional garb worn by the participants of this torchlight service are black tunics and gray mantles.
In Vercelli, large wooden statues depicting the passion and death of Christ make their way thru the streets of this town and is known as the "Procession of the Macchine."
And the main street of Corso in Taormina is the setting for the grief-striken Mother of Jesus searching for her dead son (Addolorata). People carrying dimly lit lanterns and wearing black robes go thru the darkened streets helping the Mother search for her son.
| Easter Sunday is celebrated in Italy with much pagentry and joyous celebration. And as you might expect the celebrations are as unique as each town in Italy. In Piana Degli Albanesi (Palermo) Easter is marked with women dressed in elegant 15th century costume like it was in Byzantine times and they give out red Easter eggs to the people.
In Lanciano (Chieti) at noon, the Piazza Plebiscito sets the scene of the meeting of Mary, St. John and Christ. Statues representing them are carried to the piazza and during the procession Mary learns of Her Son's Resurrection. After the conclusion of the festivities the statues are taken and placed into the cathedral where they will remain until the following Tuesday. On the Tuesday after Easter members of the confraternities take them back to the churches where they originally were housed.
* One of the most colorful and loud displays celebrating Easter Sunday is the "Scoppio del Carro or Il Fuoco di Pasqua" ("Burst of the Wagon or also known as the "Fire of Easter") in Florence. This tradition goes back to the times of the Crusades. Tradition says that Pazzino dei Pazzi, a famous Florentine captain fought bravely against infidels. He successfully climbed the Jerusalem Great Walls, the first knight to do so, while carrying the Christian flag. As a reward, Goffedo di Buglione gave him some stones from the Holy Sepulcher.
Palazzino, upon his return to Florence, gave them to the Bishop who in turn used them to light a fire on Saint Saturday which is the Saturday before Easter. The fire was then given out to all the townspeople of Florence. It is said that the Pazzi Family started the tradition of building a huge Cart of Fire and this was carried on through the generations and is still going on today.
| On Easter Sunday at noon in Piazza del Duomo this scene is recreated again. A large cart filled with fireworks are drawn by brightly decorated oxen into the piazza and situated safely away from onlookers. During the "Gloria" of the Easter Mass the Bishop again lights the fire which sets off the fireworks. It is believed that if there are no problems with the lighting and explosion of the Cart, this is considered a sign of good luck and crops will be rich. As in previous times, the flints from the fire are distributed to the people of Florence.