March 29, 2016
In Italy, the day after Easter is a national holiday. They know how to live right, don’t they? Families often picnic together or do other outdoor activities to celebrate the arrival of the new life of primavera,Spring.
Here in the USA most of us are working on the day after Easter. I am spending some time contemplating all that happens on Easter with my family.
Easter has always been a big celebration of food and fun. As a child, I remember going to Mass as a family. None of us could eat before mass and still go to communion. That gave us all a healthy appetite to taste the special goodies our family made for Easter.
First we visited Nonna and Grandpa Ricci’s house. Their little house was packed with la Famiglia, the family members,visiting before returning home. Everyone ate something. Kids started with chocolate candy. But the real treats were the Easter pies and Easter bread.
I am not sure if these are from Abruzzo or from Benevento—my family is ½ and ½. We called one pie the Sausage Pie and the other the Sweet Pie. Both were full of eggs and cheese. The sausage pie had the lattice top crust and was heavy with meat and cheese. The sweet pie had an extra flaky top crust, tons of eggs, ricotta cheese and sugar—my personal favorite. We all had a favorite.
Every one of us loved Easter Bread. Nonna would toast and butter it for us. The whole house smelled of anise seed and cinnamon while she toasted it for all her grandchildren. This yeast bread was yellow with eggs mixed into the bread and sweetened with sugar. The flavor was fantastic.
My dad and I would go to visit other family members before returning home. He loved to check out every pie along the way—so did I. Auntie Marietta’s (Auntie Muggs) made the ultimate sweet pie. I remember somehow her crust was the flakiest and it just tasted perfect.
When we returned home, mom’s side of the family would join us for dinner. We would have the same tasty pies and bread along with a full Italian meal. The sounds of laughter and everyone talking at once filled our home for hours.
These days the holiday has changed a bit. Whereas my mother would have made the entire meal and my aunt would have made the special Easter pies and bread, today it takes all of us to prepare the meal. I usually make the Easter Bread—and this year I used my bread maker instead of rolling it out by hand. Dad and Joe made the pies. Fratelli (siblings) e nipoti (grandchildren) combined to make the meal. Oh it was still very tasty. The house was filled with laughter and loud, Italian chatter, and all the little ones playing and running.
Some family cannot attend as their own families have grown so much or they live in other states. Other family members must leave early to attend another Easter dinner with the In-Laws. Yet the feeling is the same. We are celebrating life. We are celebrating our time together in this world. We are experiencing our Italian family and missing Mom and others who have moved on to the next life.
Buona Pasqua e felice primavera a tutti. Happy Easter and Happy Spring to everyone.
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