Differently than Christmas that has recognizable traditions almost all over Italy, Tuscany has many different local Easter customs and rituals. They were the sign that spring was arriving. During my childhood we used to have breakfast after the holy mass. We were having biscuits called Canestrelli (literally “little baskets”) and some little chocolate eggs that we used to join to a blessed twig of olive tree.
Easter Customs of my family
During Easter time, each family was busy cleaning the whole house, throwing away old things. Women used to clean windows glass and all rooms were smelling of cinnabar, lime, oil and wood wax. This was the sign that spring has come and a sign of life renovations.
My grandmother remembers that during her childhood, as Easter customs, the chimney sweeps were knocking on the door wondering if someone needed to clean their chimney. They were all dressed in black, with a pitchy face, equipped with ropes and tools. Once they negotiated the price with the householders, one chimney sweep climbed up on the roof and the other was in the kitchen at the fireplace. While they were cleaning the chimney, they used to sing “never heard” songs, because mostly of them came from faraway. One of their tools was the scacciaragni (literally shoo spider). It was made of bundles of butcher’s broom held out with a rope and they made it scroll up and down along the vent.
Clean the room up from the black smog of the chimney is like a metaphor. It means that you should periodically go to church, pray and clean your soul.
You find typical Easter decoration also on the table. We usually put on the table blessed decorate eggs in a white dish, bounded in a candid napkin, with tangled edges.
The most important culinary symbol of Easter customs still remain the lamb. The Easter traditional pie is the Colomba, made with flour, butter, eggs, sugar, candied with orange peel and with a rich almond icing.
Before Easter day, the priest used to visit all houses to benedict them and the families. But people were considering it as a supervision, to check if everything was clean and in order. This aspect still remains more in the countryside than in the cities.
Another symbol of Easter was the sound of bells after a long silence during Holy Week. It gave the information about Jesus resurrection.
Easter was full of secret customs. During the Holy Saturday, people were collecting the blessed water into a small bottle with the shape of the Virgin Mary. Then they placed it into the bedroom, together with a blessed olive-branch and close to a candle of the Candlemas.
After the Easter Mass people wish a Happy Easter to all friends and family saying “Buona Pasqua” and kissing each other on their cheeks.
A long time ago, during Saturday and Sunday, kids were responsible to wake the nature up from the winter repose. They went to the fields, equipped with cowbells, to wake plants up making a big noise in all the countryside. It was a custom also to embrace fruit trees to wake the nature up from its torpidity, believing to persuade it to produce more fruits.
Women used to unleash their braids thinking that the bell sound could help their hair to grow.
Finally a secret ritual of good omen for babies was to undress them from swaddling clothes at the sound of Easter bells and make them walk for the first time.