The Italian Easter

Toc, toc, toc. Wiping my hands on my apron, I stepped towards the door, wondering who would visit so close to lunchtime. “Buon giorno,” I greeted the unexpected visitor. “Um, can I help you?” I really didn’t know what to say or do. We’d never had a priest visit us before!

“I am here to bless the house,” he informed me.

Astounded, I asked, “Bless the house?” (Looking, I’m sure, as dumb as I felt.)

“Yes, it’s time for the yearly house blessing,” he explained. I had no idea what he was talking about, but I quickly assured him that my house was already blessed.

His turn to look dumbfounded. Until at length he asked, “Ah, you’re not Catholic are you?”

Upon learning that we’re evangelicals, he offered to pray for our house anyway. But I asked him to return when my husband was home. He never did, although we would have welcomed the chance to talk to him!

That was my first Italian Easter, and I’d never heard of the Easter house blessing. Or a lot of the Italian Easter traditions, sacred or secular.

Italy’s Easter traditions

The religious aspect is foremost.

Easter week processions play a primary role. Good Friday is often marked by parishioners carrying candles and statues of Christ through the streets. And many churches do the Stations of the Cross.

The house blessing also holds a a prominent place. According to Catholic tradition, no house is properly blessed until the priest sprinkles it with holy water and prayers.

But the Pope’s Easter sermon is paramount. Many travel to Rome for the Pope’s Easter sermon and annual blessing. There is such high demand for this event that travel agents recommend ordering tickets at least two to six months in advance! Anyone who cannot attend is expected to attend their own church or listen to the Vatican on TV, radio, or the internet.

Secular traditions are important too.

Church is usually followed by a substantial dinner, often with pasta and lamb. But you can spend the day with either family or friends. Because as the Italian saying goes: Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi voi. (Christmas with family, Easter with whom you want.)

Italian kids decorate hard-boiled eggs too.

Colored Easter eggs. Easter eggs and egg coloring date back to Roman times. The Romans gave eggs as gifts because they believed that all life begins with an egg. But Christians of that time dyed the eggs by boiling them with red vegetables in memory of Christ’s shed blood. And served them as a symbol of Christ’s resurrection and new life.

You won’t find many goody baskets or chocolate bunnies. Colored eggs hold a place of honor on the table and serve as part of the meal, or get set aside for the evening meal.

But the special chocolate eggs and Colomba cakes more than make up for goody baskets!

Italy is known for its beautiful, elaborately decorated and exquisitely wrapped eggs. Some of which are downright huge. Up to 6.5 feet tall (almost 2 meters) and weighing in at 550 lbs (250 kg)!

These large hollow eggs contain prizes. And it’s tricky to say whether kids like the prize or the chocolate the most! But choose carefully. Boys’ eggs might contain cars or sports items. While a girl’s might hold Peppa Pig or Hello Kitty.

They also make eggs for adults with prizes like neckties or costume jewelry. And artisan chocolate makers will create one with your own personalized gift inside. Sometimes elaborate gifts like fine jewelry or tickets to exotic places!

Giant chocolate eggs are rather pricey. But restaurants and coffee bars often hold raffles for them. Buy a ticket, and if you’re the lucky winner you can eat chocolate to your heart’s content!

A Colomba Cake

These special dove-shaped panettone cakes are just like Christmas panettone, but only sold at Easter time. And remember if you go visiting, never go empty-handed. Take a Colomba Cake along!

And then you can enjoy the Pasquetta!

The Easter holiday starts with Good Friday, and continues through Pasquetta, or “little Easter.” Also known as Easter Monday this traditional picnic day is a favorite! Many cities also hold festivals featuring food, drink, dances, concerts, and games!

The chocolate eggs really take center stage. Although I prefer the traditional pasta and lamb, and the tiramisù, and espresso and…

But mostly I’m just thankful for all that Easter means. And that because of it my house is blessed, and we live in hope!

What’s your favorite part of Easter?

Images: Cross by geralt | Row of chocolate eggs by Lupe02 | Colomba cake by Paolo Falcioni | Church, basket & wrapped egg ©SignoraSheila.

15 replies on “The Italian Easter”

In years past I loved singing the rousing Easter anthems with the church choir, sometimes accompanied by an orchestra. We did make a joyful noise in celebration! Now the praise team leads us in song–no more choir (but I can still make a joyful noise)! He is risen, and one day, we will be too!


Beautiful post, Sheila. You shared so many interesting facts. . I enjoy learning about all the European Easter traditions and just watched a wonderful documentary on Easter in Europe. What you wrote about was included in the documentary too. Easter is my favorite holiday and stirs up all the hope we have in Christ.


Thanks, Nancy! Learning about other cultures is fun and we can learn so much! Easter is my favorite holiday too. Because he lives we can face tomorrow. Because he lives all fear is gone. Easter means hope, eternal hope, eternal joy!

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I love this post about Easter at your place in Italy. Thanks for sharing, Sheila. That’s quite a tale about the priest coming to bless the house. I would have gone after him and asked him to come back because methinks blessings are something one can’t have too much of! On Thursday night we go to the quiet, darkened church and wait in silence. Our (Anglican) priest says this is the week we should walk with Jesus, and I’m trying to bring myself to also go to Good Friday service, which I’ve not liked since I was a small child. I always go to Easter Sunday service bright and early, but this year I’m feeling like I’ve been a fairweather friend, so may go to Good Friday service too. Happy Easter when it comes, Sheila.

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Happy Easter to you too Cynthia. I guess we could have gone after him, I guess the whole thing just caught us too much off guard! And yes, Good Friday is a hard thought to bear. But then, Christ knew Easter Sunday was coming. In his heart, soul, and mind he was already living his resurrection – before ever dying! And now we live it because he lives!! Buona Pasqua!

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Yes, the empty tomb. There really are no words for it. It leaves me speechless. As for the chocolate, I’m not a huge fan. But I love lamb!! Well, and the cheese ravioli, and… 😉

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I’ve not thought of Pasquetta for so long. That was a favorite part of Easter those so many years ago. It was a rare year that the Western Pennsylvania spring allowed for al fresco dining but that didn’t stop my mother from setting out a picnic meal on her kitchen table.


Love it! We’ve done the picnic at home too. Although usually we get together with our church for a picnic/barbecue. One family has a big country home and if it rains, they are gracious enough to invite the whole lot of us to their place. And we still barbecue the lamb arrosticini (lamb chunks on sticks, as they have a large covered area on the veranda. Either way, it’s a fun day. Happy Pasqua and Pasquetta!!

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