easter in a catholic country
Villa Borghese is kind of incredible: How many city parks have such an amazing skyline view?
It’s odd for me spending Catholic holidays here in a place where they are so ubiquitous: even though most young people you ask would say they aren’t Catholic, literally everyone celebrates these holidays with their families, so they have a much stronger impact than any holiday (except maybe Christmas) does in NY. I grew up there surrounded people of all different religions, where it was normal that not everybody celebrated the same days. While we were familiar with most of the major holidays,we would ask friends about those they celebrated that we didn’t know — the two different Eids, for example. I don’t think you can really appreciate this kind of diversity until you live somewhere else.
Here, a holiday like Easter is just a universal given. Everything is closed except for some restaurants and souvenir shops (apparently a lot of people have started going out for their Pasqua lunch). Stores are almost all closed today as well, Pasquetta, when I think it is traditional to sell flowers (the Spanish Steps are covered in them as well this week), but unfortunately it’s raining so I haven’t ventured out to investigate this yet. When some friends have wished me “Buona Pasqua,” I have mentioned that I don’t actually celebrate the holiday, not being Christian, but nobody has then asked me what I do celebrate, or anything about it. I don’t really mind, I guess, I just sincerely don’t understand the lack of curiosity. One of the things I don’t think I’ll ever get about this country, in general.
“Spanish Steps” (Scalinata di Trinità dei Monti, Piazza di Spagna), covered in flowers and tourists.
Easter traditions here seem to be fairly straightforward though. There are huge chocolate eggs sold everywhere (including large Kinder eggs, Spiderman or Simpsons toys included), but you don’t see the pastel colors, peeps, or Easter egg hunts like back at home. As far as I have seen, the holiday involves mostly going to nonna’s house for lunch with cousins, then spending the rest of the day lamenting how much you ate, saying you’re going to explode, or maybe throw up so you can eat more chocolate. These are the reports in from friends, at least. Most of their holidays seem sort of like our Thanksgiving in this way. I also heard of different traditional cakes: simples ones shaped like doves, usually given by an aunt or uncle; a round cake with whole eggs (in the shell) baked into it; “pizza di pasqua” which I believe is a thick focaccia-like bread with cheese in it — these all vary by region of course though.
Myself, I went to the city’s largest park, Villa Borghese, to spend the afternoon getting a little sun, reading and walking around. As lunchtime passed the park filled up with families doing the same, kids pulling along huge animal balloons, but no Easter hats, bunny costumes, or anything like that in sight. Sort of like any Sunday, I suppose, but one where truly everyone can enjoy it instead of working.
Because most people live close to their extended families (and most 20-somethings still live with their parents), just about everybody can be with their family, while in the US we’re more used to being far away and maybe not making it back for every occasion. Friends complained yesterday of the endless hours with relatives, being asked those same questions we get: “when are you graduating?” “when are you getting married?” “having kids?” But at the same time they really can’t fathom those of us who go so far away from all of ours.
Fontana di Cavalli Marini, Villa Borghese
Piazza di Siena, Villa Borghese
It’s been a week full of holidays, actually. Friday was Earth Day, and a few days before here in Rome they had a free concert to celebrate, again in Villa Borghese, with Patti Smith. I absolutely love her, so it was great to be able to see her in person, fairly close up after weeding my way through the crowd as much as I could. I was a little disappointed she only played four songs (you get what you paid for, right?), since an Italian singer performed after her, but it was truly priceless hearing a huge crowd of Italians singing along in their crazy accents to her lyrics, or an approximation thereof.
Furthermore, the 23rd was International Book Day which saw 20% discounts in bookstore chains across the city, and today the 25th marks the anniversary of the day the Italians defeated Naziism/Fascism in World War Two. Nevermind the posters up around town for a neo-fascist rally being held today.
Patti Smith performing in Villa Borghese.