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  • How to Host an Italian Easter Party for the Ages

    Discover what it takes to create an Italian Easter party that your guests will be talking about for years to come
    Our Paesani

    By Francesca Di Meglio

    Easter in Italy is all about faith and food. Some people spend the Holy Days and Easter Sunday in Rome with nearby Vatican City as their ultimate destination. I, on the other hand, have spent the holy season in Ischia, an island off the coast of Naples in Italy that is the home of my ancestors and husband.

    There, everyone spends much time in church and gathered around the table with friends and family. Because it's a tourist destination, Ischia also comes to life after its winter hibernation. So, many of the natives return to work at the hotels, nightclubs, and restaurants across the island. The thermal spas reopen, the beaches are buzzing with people, and Ischia Porto, the island's capital, stays up all night.

    But you don't have to go to Italy to experience an authentic Italian Easter. In my experience, this is all you need to pull it off:

    Focus on Faith

    The Italians take Easter seriously. There are many reenactments of the Stations of the Cross. The townspeople get into the street with their priests and march in processions. The miracle of Jesus rising from the dead is at the heart of their celebrations. Even if you don't make it to church every day of Holy Week, you can still keep the faith. I, for instance, read a children's Bible to my son every year at this time. We're well into the New Testament by Holy Week. I try to wrap it up by Easter Sunday.

    Prepare Italian Food

    Obviously, no Italian feast would be complete without a table full of authentic food. If you are a descendent of Italians, you might want to investigate what the people in the region of Italian from whence your family came eats at Easter. In my neck of Italy, the people usually have a few staples on the Easter table. To start, they make lamb or goat as “secondi,” or second dish after some sort of “primo” or first dish, which is usually pasta. The antipasto (appetizers) always feature hard-boiled eggs. Usually, they are dyed with onion skins or other natural source of food coloring. They make pizza rustica, which is a savory pie featuring ricotta and salami or prosciutto or both. For dessert, there is always pastiera, a wheat pie. Thanks to the Internet, you can find recipes to all of these dishes rather easily.

    Easter Gifts for Italians

    Italians don't do baskets at Easter. There's no Easter bunny (except sometimes as dinner because in Ischia rabbit is the most popular dish). Instead, they exchange hollow chocolate eggs filled with a small gift. Companies, such as Kinder and Perugina (Baci), sell such eggs in bright foil packaging in supermarkets all over Italy. Children and adults alike receive these eggs. Of course, the surprises inside are usually different. A kid might get a race car or superhero, whereas the adult egg might have a little book bag or earrings inside it.

    Some Italian specialty stores in the United States sell them, too. On occasion, Italians have the eggs specially made and stuffed with their own little gift rather than getting the surprise inside. If you're ambitious, you can make your own at home, too. Learn more at "How to Make an Italian Stuffed Chocolate Egg."

    Keep the Party Going

    I have to hand it to the Italians. They know how to do life. Easter is on a Sunday, but the party doesn't end there. Easter Monday is also a holiday. It's called Pasquetta and Italians head to the mountains or the beaches for picnics with Easter leftovers, more hardboiled eggs, Italian deli items, and grilled meats in some cases. The saying in Italy is, "Natale con i tuoi e Pasqua con chi vuoi," which means, "Christmas with your family and Easter with whoever you want." Indeed, many people spend this holiday with their closest friends and not necessarily their extended family. Pasquetta is the ultimate in fun; therefore, it's the time when people absolutely hang with those they love the most.

    If nothing else, you can wish your loved ones a happy Easter in Italian. All you have to say is "Buona Pasqua!" My wish for you is an Easter full of family, food, and fun.

    Di Meglio is the author of Fun with the Family New Jersey (Globe Pequot Press, 2012). She also has written the Our Paesani column for since 2003. You can follow the Italian Mamma on Facebook or Twitter @ItalianMamma10.

    Article Published 04/15/19


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