Different from Christmas that has recognizable traditions almost all over Italy, Tuscany has many different local Easter customs and rituals. They also mean that spring is coming making everybody happy after the long cold winter.
Easter in Italy. My family traditions
During my childhood, we used to have breakfast after the holy mass. We used to prepare biscuits called Canestrelli, literally little baskets. My mother still does and I like this kind of Easter ritual. Of course, we cannot miss buying some Easter eggs that we use to donate together with a blessed twig of an olive tree.
During Easter time, each family was busy cleaning the whole house, throwing away old things. Women used to clean windows glass and all rooms smelled of cinnabar, lime, oil, and wood wax. This was the sign that spring has come and a sign of life renovations.
Easter in Italy traditions: the chimney sweeps
My grandmother remembers that during her childhood, as Easter customs, a pair of chimney sweeps knocked on the door wondering if someone needed to clean up the chimney. They dressed in black, with a pitchy face, equipped with their dear ropes and tools. After having negotiated the price for the service with the householder, one chimney sweep climbed the roof and the coworker stood at the fireplace in the kitchen. While working, they used to sing unknown songs to our ears, songs to remember their distant birthplace.
One of their tools was the scacciaragni, literally shoo spider. It was made of bundles of butcher’s broom tied with a rope. They would run it up and down the chimney to clear it of clogs, coating the kitchen with soot.
Clearing the house from the black smoke is like a metaphor for life. It means that from time to time you should go to church to pray and cleanse your soul of your sins.
Easter in Italy: Food and table decorations
There is an Easter touch even on the table. We decorate it with blessed decorated eggs. We place them in a white dish bounded in a candid napkin with tangled edges. Obviously, the most important food symbol of Easter customs still remains the lamb.
We usually end every meal with the traditional Easter cake of Italy: the Colomba. You can prepare this fluffy cake with simple ingredients like flour, butter, eggs, and sugar. And adding some candied with orange peel and a rich almond icing. Here is the link to our recipe where you will find all the instructions to follow to prepare your homemade Colomba Pasquale.
Easter in Italy: the Blessings
Before Easter day, the priest used to visit all houses to benedict them and the families. But people were considering it as 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 the long silence of the Holy Week. It advises everybody about Jesus’s resurrection.
Easter was full of secret customs. Here is another one. During the Holy Saturday, people collected the blessed water into a small bottle with the shape of the Virgin Mary. Then they placed it in the bedroom, together with a blessed olive-branch, and close to a candle of the Candlemas.
Easter in Italy: The rite of Nature’s awakening
Long ago, on Saturdays and Sundays, children had the task of waking nature from its winter rest. They had to go into the fields, equipped with cowbells, to wake up the plants by making a great noise throughout the countryside.
Another ritual consisted of embrace fruit trees to wake nature up from its torpidity, believing to persuade it to produce more fruits. Women used to unleash their braids thinking that the sound of the bell 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.
The wish we extend to friends and family is Buona Pasqua, Happy Easter. Followed by the inevitable formal kisses on the cheeks.