Holy Week 2011
The events in our town leading up to Pasqua were a little different than what we had experienced when we lived in Ascoli Piceno. This began with Palm Sunday where olive branches were used as we had seen in Ascoli Piceno, but during the service parts of the branches were exchanged as a sign of Pace (peace) amongst the congregation. This continued after the service during the passeggiata before pranzo around town.
The priest had posted at various locations the schedule for the week so we knew when different events would occur. Some parts of the events we had to ask friends and Don Tonino about, as everyone assumes we know what would be happening. We had to explain that even in the Catholic Church in the US, some things are different than here in small town Italy.
On Holy Thursday the mass focused on the last supper. There was a ceremonial washing of the feet of twelve people symbolizing the disciples. They also had a blessing of bread which was new to us. The local forno cooked special small loaves of bread which were brought to the mass by families to be blessed and eaten during the weekend festivities.
On Good Friday there was a procession through town after the mass involving carrying a statue of a crucified Jesus with Bible readings and prayers at each Station of the Cross. The procession ended back at the church and the entire mass and procession was almost three hours long. Many towns in this area have complete reenactments of the Stations including all of the participants mentioned in the Biblical account.
In the US we were familiar with sunrise services for Easter morning but when we mentioned that to friends here their response was “Why would anyone get up that early on a holiday?”. The custom here is a service on Saturday night starting at 11PM. This begins with the lighting of the Pasquale candle at a small fire in front of the church which is carried back into the church and everyone lights a candle as the church is illuminated. The almost three hour service that follows includes lengthy Scripture readings and the placement of new Holy water for the coming year.
The Easter mass here is traditionally a day for Baptisms, appropriate given the significance of Christ’s resurrection. Our church had one with a building full of family and friends. Fortunately we had a warm and sunny day allowing everyone to enjoy a lengthy passeggiata exchanging “Auguri e Buon Pasqua” to all who we encountered. Friends invited us to join their family for pranzo which always involves agnello (lamb) on this holiday.
The Monday after Pasqua is also a national holiday, Pasquetta. This is traditionally a day of picnics in the country. We took advantage of this and drove into the calanchi of southern Basilicata for a picnic and the opportunity to collect some more asparagi for our dinner that night.
The population of our town swelled with people returning for the lengthy holiday but things have now returned to normal with all the faces we are familiar with.