Easter is this Sunday and God let me tell you, Italians have been preparing for a solid two weeks. For Italians, Easter isn't about the fairy-tale bunny and chocolate that we've all grown to love. Absolutely not. Italians are big on tradition, and don't hold back when it comes following them on Easter weekend. We all know Italians for preparing over-the-top full course meals, with leftovers for months, during holiday seasons (or every night), and Easter is no exception. Whether being a believer or not, Italians are serious when it comes to celebrating Easter, participating in religious processions on streets in Little Italy, Saint-Leonard and RDP (to name a few), and let me tell you, it's no joke. So, here is a typical Easter weekend in the life of an Italian Montrealer.
Photo cred - Rose Y. Colon-Singh
Although Easter is just one day, it is actually a weekend event for Italians. It all starts on the Friday before Easter Sunday, on which the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is commemorated in the Christian Church. Many people choose to fast, or simply eat fish on Good Friday. Italians though, make sure to have at lest five different types of fish, seasoned and served throughout the whole day. There must of been wars and lineups at the Jean Talon Market and United Sea Food for the best produce. God forbid you eat anything other than fish, you will be yelled at by every member of your family and considered a disgrace to the family name. If you think that's bad, it gets even more intense.
Catholic churches also hold large processions, where people carry religious symbols and iconography around the streets while singing to Italian music and prayers. If you live near an Italian Catholic Church, you've probably experienced this first hand, and if not, you're missing out. Yes, it is tradition, but it is also bit crazy! If you're Italian, you become immune to it, but imagine being someone of another culture or ethnicity and seeing a bunch of (usually) old Italian people singing and walking 2km/h down your street in Little Italy or Saint-Leonard, holding a statue of Jesus on the Cross #groundbreaking, right? You would think you are stuck in rush-hour traffic on Jean-Talon and Saint-Laurent for how long and slow the procession lasts. Don't forget that while all of this is happening, someone is still preparing for the feast that will happen on Easter Sunday...
Easter Sunday is the big day. It is literally when everyone in the family comes together. You start your day by going to church, sitting through a long mass. The priest, in most cases, speaks Italian the whole time, and reads passages from the bible. It's great, I guess, if you're into that. But for most third generation Italians, like myself, it's the perfect time to navigate social media and/or whisper quietly with your cousins #sinners. Once mass is done, the feast begins. It is literally a full day of doing one thing, eating. You will just be eating, non-stop, until you can't even breathe. It's kind of amazing if you do not want to talk to anyone! When your grandmother asks you about your girlfriend, take a bite. When your aunt asks you why you never go see her, take another bite. Perfect.
A traditional Italian Easter meal is served in servings. The first serving is usually some sort of pasta or soup, anything and everything from lasagna, cannelloni to ravioli soup. That's just to get you warmed up. The main course usually consists of meat. And by meat, I mean lamb or goat, marinated and served fresh, alongside salads and special breads that are specific to the holiday. Everything is mouthwatering. Right when you think it's done, all of the amazing cookies and cakes that are served with coffee and espresso once you are digested (or not). It is pretty clear that food plays a huge part in the Italian Easter tradition, and let me tell you, it is done right.
Easter for Italians is not just a religious holiday, but a time for family to come together. It is the perfect excuse to eat too much and cry about it later. So to all the Italian Montrealers, Enjoy and Buona Pasqua!