Easter in Italy is one of the most important religious periods of the year, even more so than Christmas. So, as you can probably imagine, it’s kind of a big deal. And like all festivals and celebrations in Italy, there are traditions that have been passed on through generations that are still very much present today.
The Easter holidays change each year, and we’ve already let you in on the “little secret” of how it is determined when Easter will take place.
Some traditions are similar throughout all of Italy. Most towns and cities throughout Italy will have some type of procession or re-enactment of the Stations of the Cross.
It’s also common to give a chocolate egg to your children and other loved ones. These chocolate eggs are smashed (which is not always as easy as it sounds) and inside there is a small gift.
And of course, we can’t forget the delicious sweets that are prepared and enjoyed by all, especially me!
But we’ve got a few Calabrian traditions that you may not have heard about. Let’s take a look, shall we?
In some areas of Calabria, most commonly in the provinces of Reggio Calabria and Vibo Valentia, a very important religious celebration takes place. It’s called the “Affruntata” which is Calabrian for the “meeting”
It may seem like your typical religious procession but this event only takes place during the Easter period. Statues of Jesus, Mary, and Saint John are carried throughout the streets and squares of the town and joined together to symbolize the “meeting” after Jesus Christ’s resurrection. This celebration is choreographed carefully and varies from town to town. You can find some of the most celebrated and known representations of the Affruntata in Bagnara Calabra (RC), Girifalco (CZ) and Sant’Onofrio (VV).
This ancient pagan tradition is not for the faint of heart, or stomach for that matter. The Holy Week, which leads up to Easter, is usually somber and sad but it’s also looked upon as a time of penance. In some areas of Calabria, like Verbicaro (Cosenza), you’ll find a group of men known as “I Battenti”.
At midnight every Good Friday, they take part in a tradition that dates back to 1473. The men walk the streets of the town beating their thighs and legs violently, to the point of bleeding, as a sign of penance. Throughout the procession, their legs are splashed with red wine and the combination of the wine and blood dye the streets red. They are not permitted to enter the church, because the ritual is not accepted by the church.
This ritual is very real! Given the sensitive nature of this ritual, we’ve decided not to post pictures directly on the blog, however, if you are interested there is link below to some photos.
The Procession of the “Pupazze”
This unique tradition, found in the small town of Bova in the Province of Reggio Calabria, takes place every year on Palm Sunday. The “pupazze” are female-shaped “statues” of different sizes (to symbolize mothers and daughters) that have been created using olive and palm branches. They are “dressed” with flowers, vegetables and fruits.
These pupazze are led through the narrow winding streets of the village to celebrate both the rebirth of Christ and the return of Spring. They end their journey in the Sanctuary of San Leo where they are blessed. After the blessing, the pupazze are taken outside and pieces known as “steddhi” are distributed amongst the people who take them home and hang them on a wall or nearby photos of loved ones or saints.
Do you celebrate Easter? What are your family’s Easter traditions? We’d love to hear about them, head on over to the blog and leave a comment!
Image Credits: Franco Muia, Vincenzo Nasso