Buona Pasqua is the greeting I've heard in the streets and shops throughout Lucca in the past few days. Easter is celebrated in a variety of ways in Italy; the traditions are religious, cultural, and culinary. As in the United States you will find colored eggs and chocolate treats - but in Italy there is no Easter bunny or egg hunt tradition. This year I was able to experience an Italian Easter first hand and cook a pranzo di Pasqua (Easter lunch) with friends here in Lucca.
The first signs of Easter appeared in the shop windows - especially the local chocolate shops, which have had dazzling displays of Easter confections. This is Easter candy at it's artisanal best! The displays included everything from small chocolate eggs to white, milk, and dark chocolate bunnies, lambs, and hens.
There are also huge chocolate eggs, most filled with small toys. Most of the Easter chocolates are wrapped in shiny foil, colorful paper, cellophane or packaged in pretty boxes. Pop into one of these shops and you are sure to be tempted with a sample!
The pastry shops compete with a display of their own, including traditional Colomba cakes shaped like doves, glazed chocolate cakes with Easter messages, and beautiful tarts ready for the Easter meal.
I also found delicate ceramic decorated eggs at a street fair, beautiful porcelain eggs, and stuffed bunnies and lambs in shop windows.
Easter in Italy isn't all about eggs and chocolates. It's an important religious holiday (second only to Christmas).
Many Italians observe quaresima (Lent) in the 40 days before Easter, carry the traditional bunches of olive branches on Palm Sunday, attend mass on Holy Thursday, and participate in an ancient and moving ceremony on Good Friday. In this ceremony, which represents the crucifixion, black-robed and barefoot members of the Misericordia (a volunteer religious and civil organization) move through the streets of Lucca in a procession, carrying a large wooden crucifix and stopping in small squares and churches to chant prayers.
The procession begins in daylight but continues after dark as local worshippers carry candles to light the route through which the crucifix travels.
Pasquetta, or Easter Monday, is a national holiday and a perfect time for drives and picnics in the country or an extra day of relaxation. I think Pasquetta is a tradition I should bring back home!
- post by JB
An Easter toast from Lucca, Italy