Easter in Italy
During Easter, Italy "stages" over three thousand live performances. From North to South, there is a succession of processions, religious rituals, popular festivals, sacred representations, fairs, and folk traditions. Entire towns gather in the square, during Holy Week, to celebrate and commemorate the sacred drama of the Death and Resurrection of Christ.
On the night of Good Friday, the streets are illuminated with torches and crowded processions pass through them: sometimes penitents walk barefoot or in chains to make the paths of redemption more difficult and tiring. Easter Sunday explodes with the joyful element that manifests itself in the flight of doves, the burst of firecrackers and fireworks, the exultant cries of the faithful, and the first warm sun of the season.
On Sunday, after the long period of Lent that involves moderate eating, the Easter lamb is consumed and eggs and dove-shaped sweets are distributed. The egg, one of the symbols of Easter, is also a symbol of life and is present in many ancient cultures. It is said that the Persians were the first to use the egg as a good luck object, celebrating the arrival of spring with the exchange of hen's eggs. In the West, this custom dates back to 1776 when the abbot of St. Germain-des-Pres donated products from his land, including large quantities of eggs, to King Louis VII, who had just returned to Paris after the Second Crusade. The tradition of giving eggs at Easter is connected to the meaning of Easter as the festival of spring, fertility, and the renewal of nature. The egg is a symbol of renewed life and a wish for fertility.
Throughout the peninsula, during Holy Week, the rituals that recall the Passion of Christ are widespread and intensify, reaching their peak on Good Friday when the community of believers experiences a day of universal mourning expressed through different forms of popular participation. The topos of the meeting between the Madonna and the Risen Son on Easter Sunday is also very widespread.
The Good Friday procession in Chieti is one of the most important religious events in Abruzzo and attracts thousands of worshippers and tourists every year. The procession takes place on the evening of Good Friday and consists of a long procession of confraternities, penitents, and faithful carrying statues depicting the Passion of Christ from the numerous churches in the city. The procession winds through the streets of Chieti's historic center, illuminated only by the torches of the participants, creating a suggestive and emotional atmosphere. The tradition of the Good Friday procession in Chieti dates back to the 18th century and continues to represent a strong and heartfelt testimony to the faith of the Chieti community.
On Easter Sunday, as every year, one of the most evocative rituals of all Abruzzo is renewed in Sulmona: the "Madonna che scappa" (Madonna who runs away), a celebration of medieval origin that takes place in the scenic Garibaldi Square, between the Roman aqueduct and Mount Marrone, in the Maiella National Park. The procession starts from the medieval church of Santa Maria della Tomba, with the banner of the Confraternity of the Madonna di Loreto leading the way, followed by the statues of St. John, St. Peter, and the Risen Jesus who waits for his Mother near the arches of the aqueduct. It is a representation full of religious significance and dramatic tones, especially for the personification of the Madonna statue, who, locked in the seventeenth-century church of San Filippo Neri, cannot believe the news of the resurrection brought to her by St. John. Only later does Mary become convinced and comes out into the square, greeted by a crowd exultant and involved in the drama of the struggle between life and death that is manifested in the procession. Initially, the statue of Mary proceeds slowly and then suddenly launches into a wild and joyous run towards her Son. During this run, the Madonna loses the black mantle that envelops her, revealing the precious dress with golden branches, and instead of the mourning handkerchief, a red rose appears in her hands, and white doves rise all around the statues of the mother and son finally reunited. A festive procession then begins, accompanied by the sound of bells and fireworks, winding through the streets of the city. According to tradition, the loss of the veil, the red rose, and the doves are omens of prosperity.
In the province of Cosenza, in Civita and Frascineto, the Vallje, popular dances and songs in ARBERESH (Albanian) are held on Easter Monday in memory of Skanderbeg's victory over the Turks. Following the death of the Albanian national hero Skanderbeg, many Albanian families emigrated to southern Italy to escape the rule of the Turks, driven by political and geographical reasons, and the possibility of trade between the West and the East. With the consent of the abbot of the Greek monastery of S. Pietro, who assigned them some land of the abbey, in the second half of the 15th century, the Albanians settled in the current site of Frascineto, previously known as Casal di Pietro.
On this occasion, young women wear the traditional and rare beauty costume, parading through the streets of the town. Meanwhile, the Vallja dancers with fanciful evolutions and sudden movements capture someone from the audience, usually an "Italian" who pays for his release symbolically at the bar.
In Spezzano Albanese (CS), during the procession of Good Friday, participants sing Albanian songs based on two texts composed in the 19th century and orally handed down that reconstruct the last events and the Passion of Jesus and the weeping of the Madonna under the Cross.
In Briatico (VV), on Easter Sunday at noon, a "sacred representation" called "Affruntata" is celebrated. The event imagines that John, a disciple of Jesus and custodian of the Madonna, meets Mary to communicate the resurrection of her Son. However, Mary, still grieving, does not believe John's words. So John goes to Jesus to physically bring him to his mother, and a moving encounter takes place in which Mary, at first incredulous, then exultant, throws herself towards her Son in an outburst of maternal affection. The event ends with serene and satisfying joy.
In Bagnara Calabra, which is just a few kilometers from Scilla, a richly traditional religious festival called the Confrontata is held on Easter Sunday. The ritual of the Confrontations is held every year in an exciting and moving atmosphere with great popular participation. The "cunfruntata" or "affruntata" or "svelata" festival is held on Easter day in many municipalities in southern Calabria, including Siderno, Gioiosa Jonica, Roccella Jonica, and Stilo, just to name a few.
Among other Calabrian Easter events not to be forgotten are the "rito delle Pupazze" in Bova, structures in the shape of a woman made of fruits, flowers, olive leaves, and palms, on Palm Sunday; the procession of the "Caracolo" of Caulonia on Holy Saturday, with clear Spanish origins; and the "Vattienti"/"Battienti," the flagellants, of Verbicaro and Nocera Terinese.
For centuries (since the 16th century), Holy Week on the island of Procida has been one of the most evocative and participatory of all Italian Easter traditions. A continuous stream of emotions culminates in the religious celebrations of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, which bring together thousands of Procida residents in the months leading up to the event.
On Maundy Thursday at dusk, the procession of the Twelve Hooded Apostles takes place, organized by the island's oldest brotherhood, the Whites, founded in 1583 by Cardinal Innico d'Avalos d'Aragona. The first part of the procession takes place in one of the island's thirteen churches, where the twelve brothers first don their confraternity robes and then perform the ritual of the Washing of the Feet. After the religious service, the apostles don their hoods and, carrying a cross on their shoulders and a crown of thorns on their heads, proceed through the streets of the island escorted by the figure of the "centurion," the ceremonial officials, and the remaining participants of the brotherhoods who parade with large candles in their hands. At the end of the procession, in the sacristy of the chosen church, the Last Supper is held, with the apostles seated along a table where they consume a meal consisting of legumes, roasted fish, lamb, unleavened bread, and wine. The most evocative moment of Holy Week is undoubtedly Good Friday. At daybreak on Friday, the famous procession of the Mysteries organized by the brotherhood of the Turchini, founded in 1629 by the Jesuit Fathers, begins.
For all the people of Procida, in reality, the procession begins in the months preceding the event, immediately after Ash Wednesday. Young and old organize themselves into groups to design the Mysteries, plastic structures carried by hand representing scenes from the life and death of Jesus. Everything is entrusted to imagination and creativity. On the day of the procession, all participants (about 3,000) wear a white habit topped with a blue mozzetta or cloak, jealously guarded by every Procida family. The procession opens with the poignant sound of a trumpet and the response of three drumbeats in memory of the sound that accompanied the condemned to death in ancient Rome. Immediately after follow the flags with the inscription S.P.Q.R, the chains, and the Mysteries. The famous wooden statue of the Dead Christ, the work of the Neapolitan sculptor Carmine Lantucemi (1728), is kept at the Church of San Tommaso, where the Turchini Brotherhood is based. At the end of the procession of the Mysteries, the famous religious service of the Agony is celebrated. In the evening, a suggestive moment is the torchlight procession to accompany the statue of the Sorrowful Virgin and the Dead Christ back to their church.
On Easter Monday, the island is invaded by thousands of tourists who join the people of Procida for the traditional outdoor picnic. The preferred destination is the islet of Vivara.
In the island of Ischia, Easter is rich in traditions to be experienced outdoors in the squares of the characteristic Mediterranean villages and to be enjoyed in the many local restaurants that offer traditional cuisine. Among the many important events on the island of Ischia, we remember the Corsa dell'Angelo (Race of the Angel) which takes place in Forio and dates back to an ancient tradition from the 1600s. The representation reproduces the moment of the encounter between the Madonna and the Risen Son.
The event is organized by the Archconfraternity of Forio d'Ischia, the keeper of the four statues that are carried on the shoulders in procession by the same families for an unwritten right that is handed down from father to son and often causes heated disputes between the various families for the same claim. The statues represented in the procession are: the Madonna, the Risen Christ, Saint John the Apostle, and the Angel. They are all very ancient and were made by a very skilled Neapolitan craftsman in the second half of the 18th century. On Easter morning, before the start of the procession, the Madonna with a white veil on her face and Saint John are placed at the crossroads of the main street of Forio. The Christ and the Angel, at the end of the mass, go in procession forming a small procession with the celestial banner and the pennant of white ostrich feathers, the cross of the confraternity, and the clergy.
When they arrive near the fountain, a choir composed of the powerful voices of fishermen turns to the Risen Christ and sings the Regina Coeli. At this point, the Angel makes three bows to the Risen Christ and runs to meet the Madonna to announce the Resurrection of Her Son and returns after making three bows to the Madonna. All this is repeated three times. In the last race, the Angel stops under the bell tower of the Church of Santa Maria di Loreto while the Madonna and Saint John set off to reach the simulacrum of the Risen Christ. At about halfway through the route, the veil is slipped off the face of the Madonna and the street is filled with flower petals thrown from the balconies in a jubilation of songs and applause. Tradition has it that the one who carries the pennant in procession must lower it three times without the feathers touching the ground. In this way, he does not lose the right to lead the pennant the following year.
Easter in Sorrento is famous above all for the processions of the hooded figures that take place between Thursday and Friday before Easter Sunday along all the streets and in the municipalities of the Sorrentine Peninsula. An ancient rite, dating back to the 1300s and very dear to the locals who pass on their place in the procession from father to son.
In Tredozio, a town located in the province of Forlì, the same type of celebration called the Sagra and the Palio dell'uovo takes place every year. Each participant in the Sagra is offered a hard-boiled egg with a colored shell, which will be used to participate in the egg-beating competition. The challenge takes place between two competitors who beat their eggs until one breaks, obviously the winner is the one whose egg manages to break the shell of the other. Typical games of the rural tradition are also provided, such as the famous "pentolaccia" and the egg-and-spoon race. The most spectacular moment of the day is the competition of the "Mangiatori di Uova Sode" (Hard-Boiled Egg Eaters). The contestants have three minutes to eat as many hard-boiled eggs as possible, to succeed in eating as many as possible, they are helped by large mugs of beer. The record to beat is 17 eggs.
On Monday, the day begins with a parade of floats accompanied by figurants in Renaissance clothing and a band. Then, the representatives of the districts (Nuovo, Borgo, Casone, and Piazza) gather in the main square to compete in the Palio dell'Uovo. The first race is the egg race: a large and heavy fake egg must be rolled through the city streets. The challenge continues with the search for the egg in the haystack. Contestants must find the most number of eggs hidden in a huge haystack. The competition then proceeds with the "battle of eggs": teams compete by throwing raw eggs into the Tramazzo stream. To conclude the Palio dell'uovo, the classic egg-and-spoon relay race takes place. In the evening, in the main square, spectators can witness the "battle of hard-boiled eggs", which sees the representatives of the municipalities of Arcevia (Ancona) and Tredozio, always twinned in this tradition, compete against each other. The day ends with the awarding of the silver egg to the winning district of the Palio.
In Bormio (Sondrio) there is a tradition, probably unique in its kind, which has its roots in the pastoral nature of this land: the "Pasquali", a real propitiatory rite for the new season after the rigors of winter and, at the same time, competitions take place between the districts that have always made up the urban and popular fabric of Bormio.
The Pasquali consist in the blessing of five lambs that are carried to the collegiate church adorned in the best possible way by each of the five districts into which the village is divided. Each district shepherd leads his lamb to the collegiate church. Sometimes a district has its own good shepherd represented by a child dressed in skins who holds a white lamb in his arms. The preparation of the Pasquali begins in the middle of winter when Easter is still far away. In the individual districts, groups of young people led by a leader are formed. Each group chooses a theme related to Easter to be realized through an artisanal and artistic composition.
Among the Easter religious celebrations that have the egg as the main protagonist, it is worth mentioning the ones in Urbania, in the province of Pesaro. Every year, the traditional game called "Punta e cul" is played, inspired by the customs of the peasant farms, where on Easter morning and in the following two days, people gather to challenge each other to the egg game. In the past, hundreds of boiled eggs were prepared and transported in a basket to the farmyard. The competitors, usually around twenty, would form a circle, while the eggs were placed in the center to form an S-shape. The contestant who had the luck to start could choose his egg and evaluate its consistency, while the others were forced to take the next one. The game starts like this: the eggs have to be hit against each other on the sharpest side. The winner is the one whose egg remains intact and who conquers all the other eggs he managed to break. But the challenge does not end there because the game continues using the back part of the egg.
In Cantiano (PU), on Good Friday, "La Turba" takes place, a very suggestive historical re-enactment. The festival has ancient origins dating back to the 16th century when the village decided to celebrate the return of its community after having suffered oppression by the Turks. The event consists of a nighttime procession through the streets of the town, during which lit torches are carried, and traditional songs are sung. The procession is led by the "Turba" procession, a group of people dressed in period costumes representing the characters of the Passion of Christ. During the festival, the village comes alive with colors and sounds, with fireworks displays, concerts, and tastings of local typical products. The festival of "La Turba" in Cantiano is a unique experience that allows you to immerse yourself in the history and culture of the territory, attracting visitors from all over Italy.
The solemn commemoration of Good Friday in Osimo and Loreto (AN) is an event of extraordinary suggestion that attracts many visitors every year. The mystical atmosphere that pervades the two towns is enhanced by the nighttime procession of the Dead Christ, accompanied by the lament of the faithful and the mournful sounds of drums. But that's not all: the event also includes the suggestive re-enactment and representation of the Passion of Christ, involving dozens of actors in a dramatic performance. Art and faith blend into an engaging and emotional experience that allows participants to relive intensely the sacrifice of Christ and to meditate on their own faith.
Located in the beautiful historic-architectural setting, Lent and especially Holy Week offer a unique and unforgettable spectacle to visitors in Ruvo, in the province of Bari. Between sacred and profane, the Holy Week rituals with processions that have been taking place since the 17th century project the city into a mystical and evocative reality. The cycle of sacred events begins on Good Friday. Every year, the wind accompanies the passage of the statue depicting the Madonna wrapped in mourning clothes at the foot of the Cross.
This procession is called the procession of the Desolate. On Holy Thursday, from the Church of San Rocco, the procession of the "eight Saints" begins in the early hours of the morning, parading through the streets of the medieval center, illuminated only by white sheets hanging from balconies, torches and candles carried by the confreres.
On Good Friday, in the evening, the eight group of statuary of the MYSTERIES parade, including the Christ on Calvary followed by numerous barefoot devotees and the Sorrowful Mother carried on the shoulders by 50 men with the typical slow and rhythmic gait. On Holy Saturday, from the Church of Purgatory, the procession of the Pietà statuary group moves, which stands out for the intense expression of the Madonna's face. The Holy Week rituals conclude on Easter Sunday with the procession of the Risen Christ. During the procession, as a propitiatory sign, you can witness the explosion of the Quarantana, a puppet in the form of an old lady dressed in black. Its explosion marks the victory of Life over Death.
The Holy Week in Taranto is a unique experience that attracts visitors from all over the world. The religious rituals begin on Palm Sunday with the procession of the Palms and continue with the suggestive rite of the Mysteries, during which the sacred statues are carried in procession through the streets of the city. Good Friday is the most solemn day, with the procession of the Dead Christ crossing the streets of the historic center in an atmosphere of intense devotion.
In Sardinia, the rituals of Holy Week are truly suggestive.
In Sassari, for example, the celebrations begin with mass at the Church of the Capuchin Nuns and the blessing of the palms at the Church of the Holy Trinity. The whole week is punctuated by numerous processions and suggestive representations, due in large part to the survival of the Confraternities of the Holy Cross, the Mysteries, the Holy Sacrament, and the Servants of Mary. On Tuesday, the procession of the Holy Mysteries crosses the historic center of the city, recalling the Passion of Christ. On Wednesday, the Confraternity of the Holy Sacrament carries out the deposition of Christ in the church of the Holy Trinity, the culmination of a procession that began at the Church of St. Anthony Abbot. A particularly moving celebration is the representation of the Madonna of the Seven Sorrows: a statue of the Virgin Mary is carried in procession by members of all the confraternities in search of her dead son. On Good Friday, the rite of the deposition of Christ is repeated, followed by the Way of the Cross and the procession of the dead Christ. On Sunday, the suggestive rite of the meeting between Mother and Son takes place. The Madonna begins her journey in Sant'Antonio Square and wanders through the city's streets to reach Marian Column Square, where the moving encounter with the Risen Christ takes place.
In Oliena, in the province of Nuoro, during Holy Week, the ritual of the Scrocifissione takes place: Christ is taken down from the cross by the Pie Donne. Groups of men and women go in search of the Risen Christ, stopping at all the churches in the village every day until Saturday when the statue of Christ is found. The Madonna's statue is adorned with gold and jewelry to be carried in procession on Easter Sunday in search of Christ. The encounter takes place after two long and heartfelt processions along the streets of the village and is made up of women and men wearing the typical costume of Oliena. The most curious thing is that during the event, citizens who do not participate in the processions stand on balconies with guns, pistols, and other weapons and shoot in the air, announcing the resurrection. At the moment when Christ and the Madonna meet, the shooting intensifies and at the end of the procession, the statues are brought into the church for the celebration of Easter mass. The shooting in a public place has never been prohibited by law because it dates back to an ancient tradition and there have never been any incidents that have made legislative measures necessary.
The Spanish rituals of Holy Week are an excellent opportunity to discover art, culture, and traditions of Sulcis Iglesiente (Cagliari), a region of sea and mines, the cradle of Catalan-Aragonese domination.
In Iglesias, the procession of the Mysteries takes place on Tuesday. On Thursday, after sunset, the procession of the Sorrowful Virgin takes place. The most anticipated procession is that of Good Friday, in which the funeral of Jesus is represented in a beautiful seventeenth-century statue accompanied by a very long line of performers in Spanish dress.
In Villamassargia, the Holy Week celebrations begin on Thursday evening with the Lavanda dei Piedi, a sacred representation where the humble act of Jesus washing his disciples' feet before his death is recalled. On Friday, the Adoration of the Cross ritual takes place followed by SU SCRAVAMENTU, which is the deposition of Jesus from the Cross with the reading of the Gospel accompanied by figurants and Babbalottis in penitential white robes symbolizing purification. The Resurrection moment marks the start of the festival in its sacred and profane forms. The Resurrection Mass is held on Saturday night with the Easter vigil and the blessing of water, fire, and the candle inside the beautiful Romanesque church of Madonna delle Neve. Sunday morning is dedicated to the meeting of the Madonna and the Risen Christ's simulacra in Piazza del Pilar. On Easter Monday, the secular celebrations take place in the forest of Orbai, the cradle of the old mining village of the same name. The entire day is spent in a festive atmosphere that unites the whole village.
The Holy Week in Alghero is a very important celebration that is celebrated every year with many religious and traditional ceremonies. The festival begins with the procession of Good Friday, known as the "Processione degli Incappucciati." Participants, dressed in white hoods and black clothes, carry statues representing the Passion of Christ in procession. The procession winds through the city streets, illuminated only by candles and torches. Holy Saturday is the day of the "Corsa degli Scalzi," a race that originated in the seventeenth century and sees a group of barefooted men carrying a simulacrum of the dead Christ through the city. The race takes place at dawn, and along the route, participants sing psalms and prayers. On Easter Sunday, instead, the city awakens in celebration with the "Processione della Resurrezione." Participants carry statues of the risen Jesus and the Madonna in procession, accompanied by traditional music and songs. During Holy Week, the city is decorated with flowers and lights, and many commercial activities remain closed to respect the celebrations. Moreover, it is possible to taste some typical local cuisine specialties, such as "Pani 'e Saba," a sweet bread and raisin-based dessert.
Like other Italian regions, Sicily also participates in Easter festivities with its own rites, which derive from local customs, ancient habits, and rooted traditions, whose original aspects and motivations are not always found.
In every place, there are infinite nuances, unique celebrations, exciting scenographies, and incredible costumes that take after those of ancient brotherhoods; pilgrimages and processions of men or animals decked out for the festival parade through the streets of cities; the sounds of Easter are those of bells silenced for mourning or those of ringing that seem never to end.
The commemorative cycle of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ is made visible through precise forms of theatricalization and dramatization, from which the human and earthly content of the event emerges dominantly: Sicily becomes a great and moving stage of scenography of pain and joy.
In a mixture of folkloric data and official liturgical elements, Holy Week is the period when a script is brought to the stage, in which the protagonists are Good that defeats Evil, the Angel that defeats the Devil, and Life that defeats Death.
But what strikes most, in any city or small town in Sicily, during the rites of Holy Week, is the participation of the entire people who live the various processions or sacred representations, participating as if the tragedy of Christ were a family matter and as if the son of each one were in the place of Jesus.
It all starts with Palm Sunday. In some countries, this moment is marked by a grand procession of confraternities, with banners and traditional jackets featuring the effigies of the Patron Saints, accompanying a young Jesus making his entry into Jerusalem. Elaborately woven palm leaves and olive branches signify a festive atmosphere. Tradition dictates that one should wear a new outfit for Palm Sunday. The celebration is short-lived, as the next day marks the start of a three-day fast after the death of Jesus.
During Holy Week, there are both processions, where popular liturgy reaches its climax, also recuperating precious figurative traits connected to agrarian ceremony, and Sacred Representations. The latter presents, through a series of recited parts, a sort of historical reenactment of the Sacred Event. Representations include: the Last Supper, the Washing of the Feet, the Symbolic Transfer to the Garden of Gethsemane, the Betrayal of Judas with the Capture of Jesus and Transfer to the Sanhedrin, the Trial, the Calvary, the Agony and Death of Jesus, the Deposition, and the Burial.
Maundy Thursday is the evening dedicated to "Eucharistic celebration" with a visit to the Sepulchers that are made in every parish, and which were once moments of involuntary parochialism for the best artistic arrangement. The moment recalls the anniversary of the Last Supper. Adorned with candles, flowers, and splendid vases with wheat plants germinated in the dark, the Sepulcher encloses the Body of Christ, and in the parish, people pray in vigil until the following morning. The visit to the Sepulchers is considered a, albeit exceptional, mourning visit. In fact, in Favara, on Holy Saturday, the Madonna is even given a condolence visit.
The tradition imposes the number of Sepulchers to visit: the faithful must go to different parishes or to the same one for more than three times and, in any case, an odd number of times.
Good Friday is a day of absolute mourning. Many years ago, even movie theaters interrupted their screenings when the city was preparing to experience this intense emotional moment.
On Holy Saturday at midnight, the unveiling of Christ takes place, consisting of the fall of a huge curtain that covers the main altar and consequently the appearance of the statue of the Risen Christ: at the same moment, the bells that announce the Resurrection ring out to the people: a moment of great joy that reaches its climax on Easter Sunday.
There are many popular sayings that refer to the Easter festivities and the joy of Resurrection Sunday: "Mmiati l'occhi chi vittiru Pasqua", "Blessed are those who have arrived alive and happily, to the new Easter"; or "Essiri cuntentu comu na Pasqua" or, on the contrary, "Fici na mala Pasqua".
On Sunday, the meeting between the Madonna and the Risen Son is very common, a singular procession that takes place in many cities.
"A MARONNA VASA VASA" IN MODICA (RG)
In Modica, for example, the Madonna vasa vasa (Madonna vasa vasa) is celebrated. Two processions depart from the Church of Santa Maria di Betlem, one with the simulacrum of "Christ the Redeemer", the other with the simulacrum of the Madonna Addolorata. The two processions travel through the city streets but with different routes and, around noon, converge in Piazza Municipio where ù 'ncontru, the encounter, between the Mother and the Son takes place, and the vasata (the kiss and embrace between the two). The operation is carried out using a device that allows the mechanisms of the litter, moved appropriately, to move the arms of the Madonna outstretched towards the Son. The bearers theatrically accentuate the gestures of the two simulacra. The scene is repeated two more times. At each encounter, the Madonna's black cloak is dropped, revealing the blue dress, and each time a group of white doves are allowed to flutter freely. In the past, peasants drew omens from the two vasate made in San Pietro and in Santa Maria. The embrace between the Madonna and Jesus infects the people, so much so that many, rejoicing, embrace their neighbor.
"A PACI" IN COMISO (RG)
In Comiso, a similar celebration called "A Paci" takes place. Before the end of the day on Saturday, the statue of the Madonna Annunziata is taken from its niche inside the church of the same name because on Easter Sunday there will be a procession of this statue together with that of the risen Christ.
Once they reach a sufficiently large square, the two statues are placed facing each other, about 50 meters apart, and then reunited in a meeting accompanied by the clapping of the faithful, the movement of white handkerchiefs, and the execution of the royal hymn by the band; this meeting is repeated several times and reaches its climax when the ritual is repeated in Piazza Fonte Diana, where the event is accompanied by the uninterrupted sound of the church bells.
The last representation of the "peace" occurs when the statues return to the church.
"U GIOIA" IN SCICLI (RG)
Every year at Easter, a special and crowded festival takes place in Scicli. The festival of the Risen Christ, also called "U Gioia" or "Uomo vivo," is animated by the Simulacrum of the Risen Christ carried in procession on shoulder, supported by numerous young people and continuously raised to the cry of "Gioia", which they bump against each other and give life to a lively game that arouses curiosity.
HOLY WEEK IN ISPICA (RG)
The Holy Week in Ispica is an intense and moving experience that attracts visitors from all over the island and beyond. This religious celebration has ancient roots and takes place every year during the week leading up to Easter.
The celebrations begin on Palm Sunday with the procession of the "Vara", a large wooden structure adorned with statues depicting scenes from the Passion of Christ, which is carried on the shoulders of the faithful through the streets of the city. During the week, every evening, there is a procession that represents a specific moment of the Passion of Christ. The processions are characterized by sacred statues and images that are carried in procession by the faithful, accompanied by music bands and the lighting of the streets with torches and candles.
One of the most intense moments of the Holy Week in Ispica is the procession of Good Friday, during which the "Vara" is carried in procession together with the statues of the Virgin Mary and Saint John the Evangelist. The procession takes place at night and is accompanied by the sound of bells, funeral music, and sacred chants.
During the Holy Week in Ispica, it is also possible to attend numerous other religious celebrations, such as solemn masses and Eucharistic adorations.
HOLY WEEK IN ENNA (EN)
One of the most evocative moments to visit Enna is during Holy Week, whose rituals date back to the time of Spanish domination (15th-17th century), when the Confraternities that already existed as corporations of arts and crafts were authorized to freely establish themselves as religious organizations to promote worship, receiving precise norms and privileges from the sovereigns.
Of the 34 Confraternities that existed until 1740, today only 15 survive and animate Holy Week. Today's confreres are no longer miners and farmers as in the past: the only restriction that remains concerns gender, only men are allowed.
The culminating moment of the Easter celebrations takes place on Good Friday when, in the early afternoon, all the Confraternities arrive at the Cathedral and begin to assemble for the solemn procession. Over two thousand hooded confreres, in order and in absolute silence, precede the "Vare" of the Dead Christ and the Sorrowful Virgin, starting the long funeral procession that will go through the entire city. The first group to march is the Company of the Passion, whose confreres carry on trays the 24 symbols of Christ's Martyrdom called the Mysteries: the cross, the bag with the thirty coins, the crown, the lantern, the rooster, the nails, and the tools for the flagellation. The procession solemnly reaches the church of the cemetery, the former Capuchin Convent, where the faithful are blessed with the reliquary Cross containing the Thorn of the Crown of Christ. The procession then returns to the Cathedral.
THE "REAL MAESTRANZA" IN CALTANISSETTA (CL)
The celebration of the Real Maestranza, which takes place on Wednesday in Caltanissetta, is linked to the ancient artisan corporations. The imposing and moving procession is made up of local representatives of the oldest artisan corporations. In 1806, Federico di Borbone, impressed by the grandeur of this procession, granted the Maestranza the title of "real".
The main character of the event is the Captain, who is elected every year among the various representatives of the artisan categories. He has the honor of carrying the Christ on the Cross, as a sign of penance, in the first part of the procession, and then leading the Real Maestranza as an escort of honor for the Holy Sacrament.
EASTER IN SAN CATALDO (CL)
Another procession to remember in the province of Caltanissetta is the procession of the Risen Christ and the Sanpauluna of San Cataldo. The Sanpauluna are giant papier-mâché figures representing the eleven Apostles and have been included in the European catalog of papier-mâché giants. This is also a tradition dating back to the Spanish domination period.
"IL BALLO DEI DIAVOLI" IN PRIZZI (PA)
In some Easter rituals, the masks of Death and Demons appear, as in the celebrations of Prizzi. On Easter Sunday, two processions, one with the statue of the Virgin Mary and one with Jesus Christ, are arranged at either end of the main street. Next to the latter, two angels stand with swords in hand. But at the moment of the meeting between the Madonna and Christ, two devils wearing red suits and tin masks and Death with a completely yellow suit begin to agitate, running from one statue to another. The attempt to prevent the meeting between the Mother and the Son is called the "abballu di li diavuli".
At a certain point, the angels strike the devils with their swords. The bells and the band play triumphantly.
"LA FESTA DEI GIUDEI" IN SAN FRATELLO (ME)
Although loaded with a different symbolism, the representation of the demonic in the Easter mask of the "giudeo" in San Fratello is even more evident. On the Thursday and Friday before Easter, the streets of San Fratello seem to relive the agitation and revelry of carnival days. Jumps, runs, the sound of chains, and trumpet blasts announce the presence of the "giudei," who are farmers and shepherds dressed in clothing that alludes to the killers of Christ. Above the hood, the Giudei wear a helmet painted with motifs taken from Christian or popular symbolism, such as crosses, fish, intertwined hearts, red horns, or short phrases. There is a mixture of sacred and profane that is not surprising when reflecting on the sacred value of eros in archaic societies. Many elements of the giudei costume clearly reveal the demonic meaning of the masking.
"LA DIAVOLATA" IN ADRANO (CT)
In the town of Adrano, in the province of Catania, the "Diavolata" is held on Easter Sunday, a sacred representation of medieval origin.
It takes place near the main town square, taking advantage of the ideal setting of the city's Castle-Museum.
In this area, a stage is built to host five devils dressed in red who emerge from a trapdoor accompanied by flames and smoke, Lucifer, Death - wearing a dress depicting a skeleton - and an angel - represented by a child.
The event consists of a series of discussions on good and evil and concludes when the Angel forces the devils to say the phrase "Viva."
Similar customs are widespread throughout Europe; just think that even in Poland there is a diavolata similar to the one in Prizzi. In Kolednicy, death, armed with a sickle, is followed by two infernal beings called bears, however, similar in the way they dress and their functions to the diavuli of the Sicilian abballu. In Elzach (Black Forest), the infernal masks of the Schuddingen appear, while in Austria (Salzburg area), during the winter solstice celebrations, there is a contest between the pure and the impure. Similar rituals also exist in Latin American countries with a Latin culture.
The Church projected itself into Latin America through Spain and mixed Christian customs and traditions with ancient local beliefs, modified based on archaic polytheistic beliefs. Hence the numerous fiestas de los diablos (devilish festivals) celebrated during the Easter period. In Oruro (Bolivia), the most suggestive and impressive of these fiestas takes place where devils are always the protagonists.
"U SIGNURI DI LI FASCI" IN PIETRAPERZIA (EN)
In Pietraperzia, a municipality in the province of Enna, Good Friday represents the moment of greatest interest. Around 3 PM, preparations begin for the procession that will wind through the streets of the town until late at night. A red ribbon, after being measured on the body of the Christ on the Crucifix that will be carried in procession, is tied to the faithful's breech. The gesture is connected to the ancient magical-apotropaic belief linked to the law of contact, which states that what has been in contact with the divine will be an element of protection against every adversity.
At dusk, the large tree is taken out of the church, a large wooden pole at the top of which, in an iron circle, the ribbons are tied that every year the faithful knot to fulfill their vow to Christ.
The ribbons are white linen strips, 36 meters long and 40 cm wide. Before raising the long pole to the top, a crucifix is placed at the foot of which a multicolored globe is set up. At this point, U Signuri di li fasci travels through the streets of the entire village, and the "hooded" ones follow the simulacrum, carrying the coffins of the dead Christ and the Virgin on their shoulders. In this ceremony, the tree is a symbol of the regeneration of time, the resurrection of vegetation, a metaphor for the cyclical return of spring.
"LA PROCESSIONE DEI MISTERI" IN TRAPANI (TP)
The origins of the Misteri di Trapani (Mysteries of Trapani) seem to be Spanish. It is a Sacred Representation that becomes a figurative procession carried out with statues. Each group of statues represents a trade guild, the "Misteri" (Mysteries), in fact, were assigned to the guilds with notarial acts starting from the seventeenth century.
In fact, the guilds are involved every Friday of Lent when the "scinnuta dei misteri" (unveiling of the Mysteries) takes place, that is when the statuary group representing the trade of the turn is highlighted compared to the others. In total, there are six "misteri" that are decorated for the occasion.
In Strettoia, in the province of Lucca, the Holy Week celebrations begin on Palm Sunday in the town square, where the arrival of Jesus and the disciples in Jerusalem is depicted. The events continue on Holy Thursday at the Church of Sant'Ippolito in Cassiano with the Washing of the Feet and the dramatic representation of the Last Supper. On Good Friday, the town is illuminated for the reconstruction of Calvary, and various characters reenact the stations of the Cross. On Easter Sunday, the actor portraying Jesus returns to the church amidst the applause of the faithful.
A dove is the protagonist of the famous Scoppio del Carro celebration, which takes place in Florence. It is a suggestive festival that owes its origins to three shards of the Holy Sepulchre preserved in the Church of the Holy Apostles. The three fragments of stone arrived in Florence thanks to Pazzino dè Pazzi, who, in 1097, embarked with the Crusaders on a journey to Palestine and was the first to climb the walls of the Holy City. The story also tells that when the city of Jerusalem was liberated, the Crusaders gathered in the Church of the Resurrection, distributing the blessed fire caused by rubbing the three fragments of the Sepulchre. In the following years, the three stones continued to be used to light the Paschal candle. Later, a cart was set up to transport the sacred fire to people's homes. Over the years, the cart became increasingly magnificent and rich in rockets and fireworks, eventually turning into a grand event that involves the entire city. Today, the cart is transported on Easter Sunday by white oxen from Piazzale del Prato to the Cathedral of Florence, and a wire is stretched from it to the high altar. Along the wire, a dove carrying an olive branch in its beak is tied, and it has the task of sliding towards the cart with the lit fuse to ignite the fireworks contained on it.
According to tradition, if the explosion is perfect and the dove completes the entire path to Florence, a positive year is predicted.
In Montefalco, in the province of Perugia, the race is called "Gara della Ciuccetta" and takes place on Easter Monday.
The most impressive procession takes place on Good Friday with the participation of 18 wooden groups belonging to different guilds, as well as the urn of the dead Christ and the Virgin Mary in mourning.
The procession starts on Friday afternoon and ends on Saturday morning.