Easter in Sicily – between Christianity and Paganism
As in much of Spain, Holy Week unfolds with great intensity in most of Sicily. This comes as no surprise – the processions of penitents commemorating Christ’s Passion and Death were brought to the island by the Spanish in the 16th century. While they abound across Sicily, the processions that arouse the greatest expectation are those held in villages like Enna and Caltanissetta, both of which lie about an hour’s drive away from Catania.
But all Sicily’s beautiful, timeless villages preserve their deep-rooted traditions, each with its own character. A holiday on the island during Holy Week could combine sightseeing in coastal towns, discovering local architecture and tasting their delicious cuisine. And, during the festivities, the religious guilds stage spectacular Easter processions in which the Baroque aesthetic prevails.
If you want to savour some of these ancient festivals, go to Prizzi on Easter morning. There they celebrate the Ballo dei diavoli (dance of the devils). In this folk tradition from the Middle Ages, death, dressed in yellow, accompanied by devils clad in red, roam the town heckling the passers-by, who can only get rid of their tormentors by giving them a donation. This takes place just when the madonna and child make their entry. This curious form of revelry, a mix of the religious and the profane, represents the eternal struggle between good and evil.
A similar event known as the Diavolatais held in Adrano.The main square or Piazza Umberto provides the backdrop for this battle between good and evil, represented by Lucifer and his devils on one side and St Michael the Archangel on the other.
Another picturesque celebration is the Madonna Vasa Vasa,in Modica, in which the faithful crowd around the floats on their way to the church of St Mary of Bethlehem to witness the traditional bacio di mezzogiorno (the noon kiss) between the Virgin Mary and the resurrected Christ. Vasa means “kiss”. Dressed in mourning, the Madonna is carried through the streets of Modica in search of her son, to the rhythm of drumming. Throughout the procession, the people sing, dance and drink to celebrate the event. While strolling through the winding streets of Modica’s charming historical centre, visitors will eventually come across the striking Baroque architecture in the area around the Castle of the Counts of Modica, listed as a World Heritage site since 2002.
One of the oldest and most enigmatic celebrations is the Procession of the Mysteries, held in the historical centre of Trapani. Full of light and emotion, this procession consists of twenty float groups depicting the Passion and Death of Christ which parade through the streets for 24 hours, starting on Good Friday afternoon. The figures are borne on the shoulders of the massari to the rhythm of a traditional music known as annaccata.
As in all traditional festivities, Holy Week in Sicily has its characteristic confectionery. The colomba pasquale (Easter dove), also known as the palummeddi or pastifuorti, is eaten in the home. This typical sweet is usually shaped like a dove or rooster, although new shapes are emerging all the time. It consists of flour, sugar and cinnamon, topped off with a hard-boiled egg as a symbol of Easter and rebirth. A similar pastry is the cuddura, typical of the Calabria region. Based on flour and water, it is similarly adorned with hard-boiled eggs. The casatta siciliana is another cake eaten at Easter, although it is sold in pastry shops all year around. If you would like to taste some of these delicacies, the best assortment is to be had at Pasticceria Irrera, on the Piazza Cairoli 12 in Messina, and at Caffè Sicilia, on Corso Vittorio Emanuele III, 125 Noto de Siracusa.
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Text by ScannerFM
Morocco, a world of senses
Warsaw – What to See in Holy Week
Holy Week coincides with the onset of spring, a season associated with milder temperatures. Although you should still pack some warm clothes – jerseys, jacket, raincoat, gloves, cap and scarf – it’s unlikely to snow in Warsaw, unless you’re in the higher mountain areas. And, by early April, the days are quite long and sunny. Unlike in other European countries, during Holy Week in Poland both the Thursday and Friday are working days and most of the museums and shops are open to the public. Visiting hours at churches may be different, however, as in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, where the largest Good Friday procession of all Poland is held.
As in other areas where the Catholic festivities are traditionally observed, Palm Sunday is celebrated here in style. Like in Spain, in Poland the faithful carry palms, but here they are far more elaborate. Dried flowers and paper flowers go into their careful making by hand. They are so popular here that many towns and villages organise palm contests. We recommend taking the two-and-a-half-hour drive to Łyse, in the region of Masovia, where you can find palms of up to 6 metres high.
Cultural activity also revolves around Easter. The keynote event is the Ludwig van Beethoven Easter Festival. Held in Warsaw, as well as in Krakow and Gdansk, it attracts classical music virtuosos from all over to perform a number of works based on Holy Week themes. The festival alone makes it well worth visiting the city. Over the festive period churches host classical music concerts. The programme features religious works, pride of place going to the staging of the Lord's Sepulchre. This is undoubtedly a good reason for visiting the holy precincts of Poland’s capital city. Even under the Communist regime the uncensored sepulchres stood for the most important political events of the time.
Another high moment of the holy celebration is the blessing of the food. Starting on Easter Saturday morning, crowds of people congregate at the churches bearing adorned baskets containing, in addition to the classical hand-painted Easter eggs, bread, salt, pepper, sausage and an endless assortment of Easter pastries to have them blessed. Once the ritual has been completed, they may then eat meat. In bygone days the baskets’ contents were indicative of the purchasing power of the various families – the greater the amount and variety of food, the high their economic status.
Easter eggs are decorated in different ways and this is often the favourite activity of the younger members of the household. Once boiled, the easiest thing is to colour them with polychromed powders dissolved in water. These colours are sold in small sachets at this time of year. A more natural technique is to boil the eggs in a pot with onion skins, giving the eggshells a dark tinge and, the more onion skin you use, the darker the colour. After the eggshell has dried out, it can be drawn on or incised using a sharp needle.
Easter Monday is noticeably more playful in character and closely linked to rural traditions. In Polish it is known as Lany poniedzialek – “Water Monday” – as Slavic tradition has it that throwing water over the girls is believed to ensure their health and fertility. So, make sure you keep your eyes skinned because even today you can have a bucket of cold water thrown over you.
Cuisine is important in Poland at Easter and tables are decked out with Easter eggs, symbols of a new life. Confectionery also plays a major role, particularly mazurek, a cake based on butter and very thick cream, eggs, sugar and flour. It is also stuffed with nuts, chocolate and fruit (orange or lemon). Another cake typically made during this festive season is kaimak. Although similar to mazurek, the dough contains liquid toffee.
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Text by ISABELYLUIS Comunicación
Images by Polish National Tourist Officemore info