• 2017.04.12
  • Doves, bunnies and chocolate eggs…
There is no doubt that Christian holidays represent most of the traditional Italian heritage. They express faith, of course, but nowadays they mostly have a strong social meaning and represent a bond to the community.
Easter is a Christian holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ which took place three days three days after his death and its celebration takes place on the first Sunday after the end of the forty days of Lent, which are the forty days of penitence beginning with Ash Wednesday.
Although most people believe Christmas is the main Christian holiday, according to tradition, Easter is the most important one because it celebrates the resurrection of Christ.

The Easter celebrations begin on Palm Sunday, a week before Easter Sunday. Palm Sunday owes its name to the twig made of palm leaves which is raised and blessed during the mass on this day and which is supposed to be a symbol of peace and dedication throughout the year.
Many improvised vendors sell these twigs at the corner of street and some are true work of arts with complex patterns and designs. The twigs (or palms) are green at first and they dry out during the year but they are kept as a holy and blessed memento around the house until the following Easter.
They usually adorn a Virgin Mary portrait if there is one in the house or they are sometimes hung on the doors to bless the homes.

Among the many symbols that accompany the Easter celebrations is the traditional rabbit who carries the eggs and he refers to the hare, who, since the early days of Christianity, was a symbol of Christ.
The egg is considered the symbol of life and regeneration: the custom of giving eggs is linked to the fact that Easter takes place during the spring therefore during a period of fertility and blossoming of nature. The egg is in fact a symbol of life and fertility and it symbolizes new hope.
The dove cake is a typical gift at this time of the year. It is a cake whose shape resembles that of a dove with outstretched wings because this bird is a symbol of peace.
Traditionally the dove cake, called colomba, is a vanilla sponge cake covered with candied almonds and sugar sprinkles but there are many new variations nowadays including chocolate, limoncello liquor and hazelnut covered dove cakes.

Liqueur, chocolate and limoncello dove cakes

Chocolate dove cake (dove is peace)

While the dove cake is a popular Easter gift among adults, chocolate eggs are a common gift for the children. These hollow chocolate eggs can have a variety of sizes and flavors (dark, milk, white or nut chocolate) but all contain a surprise, which can be as precious as a small piece of jewelry or as simple as a plastic gadget.

Chocolate eggs contain a surprise for children

The main traditional Easter dish in Italian homes is undoubtedly the lamb which is cooked in many different ways and served with seasonal vegetables. Other symbolic foods are the eggs, again synonymous of fertility and resurrection, and they can be eaten in different ways or they can be used to prepare fluffy omelets.
Among the most common starters, the most famous one in my region Liguria is the Pasqualina, a pie made with layers of unleavened dough baked in the oven and stuffed with leafy vegetables, eggs, ricotta cheese and herbs (marjoram and chives) and covered by other layers of pastry.
There are many games traditionally played for Easter and such games involve the use of Easter eggs.
“Egg picking” is perhaps the most famous game. It is played by two people, each holding a painted hard-boiled egg in his or her hand; the players roll their eggs from a hill at the same time and the one whose egg shows less cracks can claim both eggs.

Painting hard-boiled eggs with natural hues

Painted hard-boiled eggs for Easter

Painted hard-boiled egg

Perhaps one of the most popular Easter customs in Italy is to wear new clothes on Easter Sunday.
Many people show off their new outfits going for a stroll on this day. The custom originated in the churches hundreds of years ago, when those who had been baptized on Holy Saturday were wearing new white clothes for the occasion.
Lighting an Easter candle is traditional Easter observance in the Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican churches.
A candle is lit on a candlestick near the altar the night of Holy Saturday during the celebration of Easter’s eve. From the candle one should take the flame and light all the other candles of the church to reveal the beautiful decorations especially prepared for Easter. The dramatic ritual of the celebration of fire goes back centuries and the candle represents Christ and his flame symbolizes his resurrection as the “light of the world.”


  • Patrizia Margherita
  • Jobtranslator, interpreter, teacher

Although she was born in Italy, she is half Italian and half American and she has become a "multicultural person" who can speak five languages. She has lived and worked in the US, Brazil, Australia, France and the UK so she considers herself a citizen of the world. When she is not teaching or translating, she likes cooking Italian food, hiking and traveling around the world...She has traveled to 80 countries and counting!

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