Monday, April 25, 2011

Celebrate Easter Monday the Italian Way!

The Italians have a saying, “Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi”. It means "Christmas with family, Easter with whoever you like". This especially applies to the Monday following Easter.

Easter Monday or 'La Pasquetta' - literally little Easter - is a day spent when families and friends who have been solemn and pensive get together in a completely relaxed, informal, always noisy way to enjoy each other's company and - hopefully - the warmer spring weather. It is often spent by going on a picnic with plenty of yummy treats, and, of course, wine.

Although it's not really celebrated as a religious part of Easter in Italy,  (though inevitably mass is said in churches all over the country) Easter Monday does have some religious significance. It's also known in Italy as 'Lunedì dell'Angelo' ('Monday of the Angel') - the day to remember Mary and Mary Magdalene visiting the sepulchre and, finding it empty, being comforted by an angel.

The origins of Easter Monday celebrations, like the origins of Easter in Italy, are based in pagan tradition.  The ancient Roman culture feast of 'Lupercalia' was linked to re-birth after the hardships of winter and was a period of several days celebrating fertility and family.

In Old Ireland, Easter Monday was always filled with fun and festivities. Not only was it a favorite day for buying and selling livestock and merchandise at fairs and markets, it was also a time for enjoying sports, games, sideshows, dancing, eating, drinking, gambling, tugs of war, hurling matches, card games and reels and jigs. Those days are long gone, but would that dear old Ireland could go back to the Easter Mondays of long ago. Much more fun than the traffic jams as everyone returns home after spending Easter with extended family!

Easter Monday (Andre påskedag) in Norway is the end of the Easter holidays and is about cleaning, clearing and returning home (including sitting in traffic jams).

To me, the cleaning can wait another day. I like the Italian's idea of going on a picnic and dining casually with a bottle of wine. I think spending the day at a local park with a picnic basket, and incorporating some of the fun of the Irish would be grand. Invite some friends, find someone who can play guitar (or at least bring a portable music player and have plenty of Irish music to play) and play some games - frisbee or softball for the more physical guests or card or board games for the more cerebral.

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