Easter is a holiday typified by its ceremony, events, and its extravagant
foods. In preparation for the holiday in Italy, bakeries fill their
windows with boxes of panettone, chocolate eggs, and sweet
breads with hard-boiled, pastel-colored eggs baked in their centers.
Women line up outside of their local butcher shops to pick up fresh
cuts of capretto (baby goat) or lamb, and carry them home
in brown paper wrapped bundles.
Home kitchens are strong with scents of garlic,
roast peppers, pickled vegetables and fresh cut tomatoes for antipasto.
The Italian Easter feast is considerable, most likely because it
also marks the end of Lent on the Roman Catholic calendar, a 6-week
period of fasting and abstinence.
The last week of Lent, Holy week, is marked throughout
Italy with solemn processions; elder women dressed and veiled in
black, men carrying ceramic statues of the Madonna, everyone carrying
their wooden or glass rosaries. Easter's bright colors, upbeat sounds
and parades are in stark contrast, and this excess is best demonstrated
at the dinner table. Roasted meats, aged cheeses and pastas fill
the table, and the sweet smell of sugary confections perfumes the
air. Without doubt, the Italian Easter celebration is the definitive
holiday feast. Mangia!