There is a saying in Italy: “Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con qui vuoi.” It roughly translates to “Christmas with yours, Easter with whom you want,” which means that Christmas is meant to be spent with family while Easter is a holiday to pass with friends on little trips.
Most students in my program adhered to this philosophy—taking trips to Spain, to the Five Cities, to Napoli, to Scotland, to Sicily… I, being perhaps a rebel although more likely just lucky to have Italian relations, instead spent the holiday with my cousins.
In the States, Easter is full of little happy yet commercialized traditions. I would awake to find a basket full of chocolates and treasures from the Easter Bunny, then to compete in egg hunts, a late family lunch eating painted eggs and deviled eggs and cheesebread, then happily frolicking for the rest of the day.
In Italy, there is a harrowing hole in the holiday: There is no Easter Bunny. Instead, Easter grips to its more religious roots in this Catholic country. The Easter Bunny may be lost but is replaced with other traditions—particularly large chocolate eggs.
The Easter meal was prepared over multiple days. My cousin and I helped prepare olive ascolane—a specialty from my father’s hometown- over two days while my aunt made the dough for pizza formaggio (cheesebread). The masterpiece of a meal was brought to existence on Sunday in proper Italian fashion. After a morning mass, we welcomed more family into the house for the lunch—bringing offerings of dishes and the traditional large chocolate egg. The meal began with an appetizer of pizza formaggio and salami; primo piatto (first dish) of lasagna; secondo piatti (second dish) including goat, olive ascolane, salad, and octopus salad; and finished with a handmade chocolate cake designed like a bird’s nest.
After the meal each kid finally got to open our uova di cioccolato (chocolate eggs). Large, hollow chocolate eggs are exchanged amongst friends and family members and opened Easter morning. It was my first chocolate egg and my family had gifted me the largest one they could find: two kilograms of dark chocolate egg the size of a small child.
I have chocolate to last me for months.