In Italy there is a saying: “Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi”
That is,“Christmas with your loved ones, Easter with whomever you desire”
Whereas Christmas is a holiday surrounded by family, eating comfort foods and recharging for the long winter ahead, Easter is considered by Italians to be the signal for the start of warmer weather and outdoor activities.
If they celebrate at Nonna’s house or away on vacation, two things are never missing from an Italian Easter: the Colomba and the surprise-filled Uovo di Cioccolato.
The Colomba is a dove-shaped sweet cake similar to the Christmas panettone. Colomba is the Italian word for dove and given it’s symbolism for peace and the Holy Spirit in the Catholic Church it’s quite easy to understand how it fits in at Easter time. The traditional Colomba is covered in almonds and sugar, although today in Italy you can find different variations to satisfy almost anyone’s taste.
The idea of chocolate eggs at Easter did not begin in Italy but the Italian version of it is definitely an original. What Italian kid doesn’t know about the Uovo di Cioccolato, or Chocolate Egg?
It’s a large, hollow chocolate egg with a surprise inside. In Italy there are even chocolate shops where you can bring your personalized gift and they will place it inside a custom made chocolate egg. Otherwise you can choose from the different sizes and chocolate – dark, milk, white, etc.- in the local supermarket and discover your random surprise gift on Easter morning.
Most Italians make Easter a getaway weekend and head either for the mountains or the seaside. They can do this because the Monday after Easter is also a bank holiday called Pasquetta or “Little Easter”. In fact, in Italy, Easter Monday is even more popular than Easter itself. Annually, millions of Italians, even those who did not go away for the weekend, continue the tradition of a Pasquetta picnic. It is officially the first picnic of the season and no one does picnics like Italians. There’s the portable barbecue to grill the meats, the baked ziti or lasagna, coldcuts and cheeses, elaborate salads, leftover sweets from Easter and vino for everyone.
Whether on a sandy beach or a grassy field, the idea is to spend the entire day outdoors, taking in those first rays of sunshine, playing games and chatting away with friends and family.
Even if Easter is not considered as homely a holiday as Christmas one thing that is never missing from the Italian recipe is food and love!
Buona Pasqua a tutti!