ROME – It is a religious feast that commemorates the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ: throughout the Christian world, Easter celebrations begin on Holy Thursday, the last day of Lent; they continue on Friday, when the crucifixion of Jesus is remembered with the Via Crucis and continue on Sunday with the resurrection and exultation of the faithful. They end on Easter Monday, the day that commemorates the meeting of the messenger with the women who arrived at the tomb where they discover the resurrection of the son of God. In reality, Monday or Easter Monday is a recurrence added after the war to lengthen the Easter feast which, traditionally , you pass with friends out of town. Here, then, that the religious celebrations and folkloristic processions, different region by region and city by city, are combined with popular traditions and pagan rites, deeply linked to the earth, to spring and to the awakening of nature. On Easter tables almost all over the world, in fact, there are bread, eggs and lamb, all peasant ingredients with a votive meaning. The egg, the paschal symbol par excellence, is the embodiment of life that is renewed, of fertility: the Romans, the Greeks and the Chinese buried an egg painted red in their fields as a wish for the fertility of the earth, just as the Persians celebrated the arrival of spring with the exchange of eggs.
In the West, this custom dates back to 1150, when the head of the abbey of St. Germain-des-Pres donated products from his lands, including eggs, to King Louis VII, who had just returned from the Crusade. From this gesture was born, therefore, the custom of giving eggs at Easter that symbolize the flourishing of nature. In the Middle Ages they began to decorate and paint them while much more recent is the tradition of creating chocolate eggs, enriched by a gift inside. On the Easter tables the lamb, which recalls the sacrifice of Christ, and the rabbit, widespread above all in the countries of northern and western Europe, born from the pre-Christian pagan rites on fertility, cannot be missing. The dove is also an Easter and sweet symbol par excellence, prepared with simple ingredients such as eggs, flour and yeast. Later others were added such as butter, sugar, candied fruit and a covering of almond paste and dried fruit.
Passover celebrates the liberation of the Jews from Egypt thanks to Moses and the beginning of a new life towards the promised land: Pèsach, Passover in Hebrew, means passage. In Israel, the faithful retrace the steps of the Via Crucis and refrain from consuming leavened bread, which they replace with unleavened bread and prepare and consume meals with dishes reserved only for that occasion. Symbolic place is Jerusalem with the Holy Sepulcher, which has welcomed pilgrims from all over the world since the 4th century and will do so when we return to travel.
In Spain the Confraternities were born, guilds of arts and crafts that have always organized the processions of hooded, chained and barefoot men carrying crosses, sacred images of papier-mâché and portraits of the patron saints along the streets and squares of urban centers. The celebrations, which for the second time were interrupted due to the health emergency, deserve to be known for popular participation, for the spectacular costumes and theatricality of the celebrations.
In Greece, the Christian-Orthodox Easter is celebrated seven days after the Christian one; the faithful light a candle in the church which they take home, where they honor the feast by eating sweets, roast lamb and maghiritza, a soup made from entrails that they consume on Saturday evenings. Even in Greece, colored and hand-painted eggs are given, especially red ones, as a sign of luck and well-being.
Boiled and decorated eggs also in Slovenia, where Easter revives ancient customs: in Idrija beautiful laces are added while in Bela Krajina beeswax is used to obtain black and red decorative motifs. Putizza is also prepared, a leavened cake filled with 80 different fillings.
In Russia, Easter is celebrated in the family, paying homage to the deceased with a meal of meat, fish, mushrooms and leavened egg bread. In some regions hay, old branches or a straw puppet that symbolized death are burned.
Similar traditions also in Germany where large bonfires are lit and farmers scatter the ashes in the gardens as a propitiatory wish for the harvest. The houses are richly decorated with eggs, bunnies and other Easter symbols.
In Belgium, the master chocolatiers show off their skill in preparing their best eggs. Brussels opens the doors of the Royal Greenhouses of Laeken; they are an Art Nouveau jewel of pavilions, arcades and domes that this year can be admired thanks to technology.
In northern countries, particularly Sweden and Finland, girls dress up as witches and distribute letters or drawings in exchange for sweets. In Holland, houses are decorated with wreaths of yellow flowers and branches, and painted eggs are hung from the trees; excellent are the Paasbrods, sweet cakes full of raisins, which are eaten on Easter day. In Denmark, gækkebreve are prepared, Easter letters cut out and enriched with colorful decorations such as feathers or snowdrop flowers. In Norway, Easter traditions revolve around skiing, Kvikk Lunsj, chocolate snacks, and giant cardboard Easter eggs filled with sweets.
The tradition of Carinthia, Austria, provides for the blessing of the ingredients of the Easter lunch: cold cuts, hard-boiled eggs, and the Osterreindling, a sweet made from leavened dough. The food is placed in a basket decorated with spring flowers and covered with Weihdecken, hand-embroidered linen tablecloths with sacred and protective motifs.
A dramatic Via Crucis has been staged in Mexico in Itzapalapa, a village in the capital since 1833. In the Dominican Republic, figures in period clothing recall the Passion of Christ; the Santo Cerro, with its sanctuary of Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, is one of the most important religious sites.
In the Seychelles on Good Friday, many faithful embark on a trek in the forest, as an act of personal sacrifice, climbing to the top of Trois Frères, the rocky granite mountain that overlooks the capital Victoria, on the island of Mahé. (HANDLE).
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