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A Fabulous Calabrian Easter with Friends

Anyone who knows me here in Calabria is going to hear me rave about naca in Davoli. It is, by far, my favorite event of the year!

So when my friends from San Diego, Patti and Tom, moved to Rome, we invited them to spend Easter weekend with us in Calabria. I wanted to make sure their first Easter in Italy was unforgettable!

First, Naca

Now, the naca procession isn't unique to Davoli. Naca simply refers to the bed with a sculpture of Jesus after the crucifixion that is paraded through the town, accompanied by somber singing and music.

What makes Davoli's procession different is the fact that dozens of pine trees covered in handmade paper lanterns accompany the naca.

So every year, starting on Epifania (January 6), the old and the young start making paper lanterns in Davoli until they have 5,000 (!).

The week before Easter, a group of men drive to Serra San Bruno to cut the trees down. The arrival in town with truckloads of trees is celebrated with whoops and cheers (most coming from the men, as they're pretty blotto upon arrival).

Finally, the big day arrives. Venerdi Santo. The Friday before Easter. The event starts at 10, but hours before, groups are preparing their trees. You'll see men leaning out of second (or third) story windows to place and light the lanterns.

It's an honor to carry a tree. Francesco and his friends and cousins have been doing so since they were strong enough to carry one (and kids can also carry smaller trees). They switch off when they get tired, usually every 10 minutes or so. It's hard work carrying a tree that's 20 feet tall or more!

Patti, Tom, and I followed the procession through the darkened streets of Davoli, listening to the mournful dirges. At one point, we met up with Fra's parents and watched the procession from above. It was amazing to watch the snake of paper lanterns make its way through the valley!

La Vigilia

Just like on Christmas Eve, the evening before Easter is an opportunity to share a late meal with friends and loved ones. We ate with Fra's family, who were, of course, the perfect hosts.

Because we were so tired from the night before, we decided to skip midnight mass, but it sounded like it was pretty interesting!

La Cunfrunta

On Easter morning, there was another procession: la cunfrunta. This portrayed Mary discovering that her son, Jesus, had risen from the dead.

I didn't expect it to be so playful! First, a boy carrying a flag ran between the statue of Jesus to the statue of Maria, representing San Giovanni, who gives Maria the good news.

The two statues, carried by half a dozen men, ran toward each other. Maria's statue dipped a few times until the black shroud she'd been wearing fell off to reveal a beautiful blue dress.

The two statues met and circled each other while joyful music played. It made me laugh out loud with glee!

After this, the statues are carried through town, and everyone follows.

Easter Lunch

Of course, all this following processions makes one hungry, so we headed back to the house for lunch.

But before that...we enjoyed what Fra calls "a river of prosecco!"

After the procession, friends gather in one of the three bars in Davoli. Each man buys a bottle of prosecco to share with the table. Though the group grew, we had a...shall we say healthy amount of prosecco! :)

Back to the house for a delicious lunch of lasagna followed by lamb. And of course, lunch was followed by coffee and sweets including the pitte cu' nipite that I helped make, as well as a colombo, which is a panettone shaped like a dove.

If Thanksgiving puts Americans in a turkey coma, we definitely experienced the Italian version caused by overeating!

I think our friends thoroughly enjoyed their Calabrian Easter, and I know I did too. It was so different because this year, I knew so many people in Davoli, whereas a year ago, I'd only just met Francesco. Now I know everyone...or at least everyone knows l'americana!

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