Here we are ready, to begin April!
While we were 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. Right now, many of us are getting ready to celebrate the moveable feast of Easter this year on April 17th.
The joy of growing up Italian includes our activities for Easter. For us, it is a day meant for 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. We refer the next days as Easter Monday or Pasquetta, then Easter Tuesday and I really don’t remember an Easter Wednesday celebration. I’m not sure if it’s certain. Since I have attended Catholic schools, I also remember that the few holy days before Easter and the week following it were always days off, and we called it Easter Recess.
On Palm Sunday
Palm Sunday, also called Passion Sunday, is the first day of the Holy Week. For us, it is a day to visit our elderly relatives and the graves where we deliver blessed palm leaves that are sometimes artistically formed into crosses or wreaths. Then, Holy Thursday is visiting 7 churches. This is easy to do in New York City where there is a Catholic Church every five or six blocks. Good Friday is church, fasting, silence from noon until 3:00 pm and more fasting at night. We break our Lenten fasting at noon on Easter Saturday and then the feasting begins as we prepare with baking and cooking big Easter meals.
Bringing the blessed palm leaves
Easter starts early now, with the little ones hunting for their baskets and heading out to church. In our house, merging 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. These terrific foods are all followed by fruits, nuts and desserts which include torta ricotta (ricotta pie), cannoli, cream puffs and more favorites that our grown children contribute or request. Of course, the little ones will be munching on bunny ears.
Our delightful Easter meals: Pizza Rustica (left) and Lasagna (right)
Me and my younger brother are fascinated and glad of how we grew up. We see and value Easter as more on family, fellowship with others through 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 during spring, I sometimes get 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, made a fancy little ruffle on a plain pair of white socks 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. On some of the past years, we spent Easter on my Nonna Giovanna’s farm and that was my favorite way to spend the holiday because there usually were new chicks, bunnies and ducklings to fuss over. Now that I have grandkids, it’s always my joy to see them having a great time every Easter.
My lovely granddaughter having a fun-filled Easter
This year, our daughter Andrea will be hosting Easter so we will all gather at her house. The important thing is that we will all celebrate together.
There’s a lot to do between now and Easter so whatever your plans may be, we hope they bring you happiness!