Easter in Calabria
If you didn't know, Easter is a big holiday here. Like, rivals-Christmas-big. Not only do Italians spend the actual Easter Sunday with their family, enjoying a big meal, but there are also a ton of religious celebrations, rituals, and events in the week leading up to the big day. Oh, and the day after Easter? It's called Pasquetta, and it's another excuse to eat a big meal, this time with friends.
Here's a bit about my Easter experiences in Calabria.
My first Easter activity was attending a barbecue (you knew there was going to be food) and art installation by the artist Luigi Rocca.
I'll get back to the food, but first: art. Luigi has been creating temporary installations for Easter at Lago Vadari (a lake) for the last few years. This in and of itself is interesting because this lake ain't easy to get to. In order to view his Duo/Christus, which consists of two large images of Jesus on the cross carved into blocks of styrofoam, you have to drive down a windy road and amble 10 minutes down a trail.
Did I mention it's a nighttime exhibit?
The two Christs, one of which was placed in the center of the lake, are illuminated at night. We got to watch half a dozen men argue about the best way to position the blocks, kayak out to the center of the lake, and then pat themselves on the backs with a few glasses of homemade wine.
The barbecue was my ultimate Italian fantasy. I got to chatter away in my ever-improving Italian while eating local delicacies like soppressata, pecorino cheese, and did I mention the wine?
Naca in Davoli
It would physically be impossible to attend all the religious events the week of Easter, so I had to choose, and I chose well. My new friend Anna and I went to Davoli for Naca, a one-of-a-kind procession.
Naca means crib (I think), and it refers to the bed that Jesus was laid on after he was crucified:
But what was really surprising is that the star of this procession wasn't Jesus...it was dozens evergreen trees covered in thousands of paper lanterns! It was completely magical to watch young, strong men (and a few women) navigate these trees through the narrow, winding streets of Davoli for two and a half hours!
This procession has Spanish roots, as the area was under Spanish rule off and on between 1442 and 1859. And it only happens in Davoli, which makes it truly special.
We arrived a bit before 10 p.m. (yawning) and watched as the lanterns were lit from ladders and out windows. I wondered how on earth the entire village wouldn't burn down. I did notice a few lanterns catch fire through the procession, but they just fell to the ground and burned out. Also, volunteers were on hand with fire extinguishers.
Accompanying the tree walk was a brass band that played a dirge as the tree walkers, priests, and several hundred people slowly ambled down through town and back. Despite it being a ritual to mourn Jesus' death, it was fairly festive, with people taking videos, chatting, and smoking.
I even got my own lantern to feel like part of the party! (Grazie, Francesco!)
Since Easter is largely a family event, I had a quiet day by myself, but the following day, I headed to my expat friend Yavette's house for la Pasquetta.
There was, of course, tons of food! We were a group of 11, a mix of Americans, Italians, Brits, and Australians. We chatted over antipasti, shared a delicious wine called Fragolino (made with grapes that taste like strawberries!), and then moved on to pasta and grilled fish.
And though we were stuffed, we managed to find room for some traditional Easter desserts and giant chocolate egg!
After so many Easter festivities, I'm ready for a vacation!