The solemn processions and joyful Easter celebrations are over and Italians have enjoyed the wonderful feast that follows Mass on Easter Sunday! Before they return to work and their normal daily activities, there is one more holiday they celebrate. In an effort to have the joy of the season last just a little bit longer, Italians also celebrate La Pasquetta or Little Easter. This spring tradition has evolved into an Italian national holiday on the Monday after Easter.
The day has religious significance as well, although it is not a holy day of obligation. Italian Catholics sometimes refer to it as Lunedì dell’ Angelo, the Monday of the Angel, when the women of the sepulcher, including Mary Magdalene, were comforted by an angel when they returned to Jesus’ tomb and found it empty.
Up until the 19th century, the entire week following Easter was set aside as a time to kick back and relax. At some point, the weeklong respite was reduced to only one day.
Family and friends often head to the great outdoors – to beaches, parks and mountains to revel in the sunshine and fresh breezes of spring. A picnic lunch is the order of the day, with leftovers (avanzi) from Easter dinner. Family chefs can relax while picnickers feast on hard boiled eggs, frittata, varieties of salami and cheeses, pizza piena (stuffed pizza), torta di pasta (baked pasta), olives, wine and other food stuffs. Sweet biscotti finishes off the meal, with both vanilla and chocolate varieties of these crunchy sweets and brightly colored Easter cookies.
Blankets are laid out, folding tables are set with flowers and games of soccer and bocce ball are played while others kick back with cards or dominoes. While many prefer to dine al fresco, it has become increasingly popular to dine at a favorite restaurant. Whatever the choice, it’s a day to relax, take a stroll, play games and celebrate spring. So, if you have the day off, consider spending it Italian-style with a picnic to celebrate the season. Even if you have to work, you can pack up some leftovers and spend your lunch outdoors, appreciating the wonders of spring. My personal favorite is in my family room with a blanket on the floor and have an indoor picnic in front of our fireplace.