Here we are ready to begin April and while we have already been busy celebrating the arrival of Spring on March 21st, we also celebrated the Feast Days of St. Patrick and St. Joseph with much preparation of foods and rituals and now many of us are getting ready to celebrate the moveable feast of Easter which this year is celebrated on April 17th.
Easter for us growing up Italian meant fasting, Church services, the elusive Easter Bunny, and finally the feasting. Easter in Italy and in our house is a Christian based holiday which begins on Palm Sunday, culminates on Easter Sunday, and extends throughout the next week for a day or two that we refer to as Easter Monday or Pasquetta, Easter Tuesday and I really don’t remember an Easter Wednesday celebration, but I can’t say for certain. However, having gone to Catholic schools the few holy days before Easter and the week following were always days off and called Easter Recess.
Palm Sunday was a day to visit elderly relatives and graves delivering blessed palm leaves sometimes artistically formed into crosses or wreaths. Holy Thursday was visiting 7 churches (easy to do in NYC where there was a Catholic Church every five or six blocks). Good Friday was Church, fasting, silence from Noon until 3:00 pm and more fasting at night. We broke our Lenten fasting at Noon on Easter Saturday and then the feasting began as we prepared with baking and cooking for the big Easter meal.
Easter starts early now with the little ones hunting for their baskets and heading out to Church. In our house incorporating both our northern and southern Italian heritages our “pranza” afternoon meal will start around 4pm with a full course antipasto, complete with brightly colored eggs and Pizza Rustica, then work our way into ravioli or lasagna and then a roast, and umpteen vegetables. This is all followed by fruit, nuts and dessert which comprises Torta Ricotta (Ricotta Pie), Cannoli, Cream Puffs and favorites that our grown children contribute or request.. Of course, the little ones will be munching on bunny ears.
Growing up for me and my younger brother Easter was more family, food and Church as opposed to today when Easter seems to be more about new clothes and spring break vacations and, yes, Church. Because I grew up in New York where it could still be cold or chilly in the spring, I might have gotten a new coat if one of my sister’s hand-me-downs didn’t fit. I remember one year when new shoes were not in the picture and my Mother who liked to crochet did crochet a fancy little ruffle on a plain pair of white sox that I wore to church in my old but polished brown oxfords. But the Easter bunny did always come and cleverly outfitted last year’s baskets with fresh bows and filled it, with a few candies and shiny apples. My older sisters usually made their outfits on the old Singer sewing machine. After Church we had breakfast next door with my Little Nonna, Aunt, Uncles and Cousins.
We either celebrated later in the day at my maternal Aunt and Uncle’s house in Elmhurst or they came to celebrate with us. Some year’s we spent Easter on my Nonna Giovnna’s farm and that was my favorite way to spend the holiday because there usually were new chicks, bunnies, and ducklings to fuss over.
This year our daughter Andrea will be hosting Easter so we will all gather at her house. The main thing is that we are all together.
There’s a lot to do between now and Easter so whatever
your plans may be we hope they bring you happiness!