Easter is coming up and brings a long list of traditions, some explicitly linked to religion, some less. And since it’s a custom in Italy to celebrate the holidays around the table, here’s a short report on how we celebrate Easter in Maremma, in ceremonies and with food too.
Processions and religious rituals
The Holy Week is by definition full of ceremonies that recall the main episodes from the Gospel, preparing the faithful to the Easter celebration. These traditions start with Lent, and reach their climax in the days preceding Easter. In Maremma this also applies to the veccia (la vicia sativa), a spontaneous legume that is traditionally planted at the beginning of Lent and, cultivated in the dark so it becomes white, it is then brought to church on Good Thursday to embellish the altar. Among the religious celebrations taking place around Grosseto’s Maremma, there’s the procession with the dead Christ, which is held in various villages, from Castel del Piano to Porto Santo Stefano, from Santa Fiora to Tirli including of course Scansano too. During the procession, with the funerary background of the marching bands, the faithful hold Christ in their arms. Other representations recall the Passion and the Via Crucis, as in Roselle or Montorgiali. To this we must add the celebrations on Easter Day, for instance that in Porto Santo Stefano where at dawn, during the procession, they walk across the village and bless the sea.
The blessing of the eggs
In Maremma, among the rituals preceding Easter there’s also that of the blessing of the eggs, on Good Saturday. There’s always been an association between eggs and Easter. In fact, even before Christianity, egg represented the rebirth of nature, the passage from winter to spring. As in many other occasions, Christianity drew from pre-existing traditions and made them its own. Indeed, even in our days, the symbolic value of the egg is still popular beyond Christianity: boiled eggs appear, for instance, even on the table for the Nowruz (new day), the new year celebrations that in Iran and Afghanistan coincide with the spring equinox . And in a poor and farmers’ culture as that of Maremma, the abundance of eggs in spring thus became an emblem of richness, a good omen.
As in the rest of Italy, it is traditional to celebrate in Maremma with a rich Easter breakfast. On this occasion, the table is laid nicely for breakfast, a meal these days we often consume too quickly. The best plates and cutlery, reserved for important occasions, are pulled out of the drawers, and lots of delicious food appear on the table: eggs, capocollo and other cured meats, and schiaccia (also called schiacciata elsewhere in Tuscany), a sweet, but not too sweet focaccia, which is perfectly matched with cured meats and is prepared with lots of eggs. Schiaccia is a cake requiring a long leavening (according to some recipes you need 24 hours!), it’s a sort of sweet bread aromatised with anise. However, as often the case with recipes like this one, every village and every family has their own variation. For instance, in the Maremmans‘s blog, Paola presents the recipe she managed to get asking friends and relatives; Tamara presents another version on her blog Un pezzo della mia Maremma in which she starts from poolish, while Giovanna kneads the dough five times, as explained in her blog Acquacotta e Fantasia.
How about Morellino di Scansano?
Well, for those who want to continue the day with a nice Easter lunch, or perhaps are planning a nice trip outdoors on Easter Monday, there are plenty of recipes. For instance with lamb, as customary. We collected a few nice recipes in this other post, with matching wines for each recipe. Or there’s fresh egg pasta, as with tortelli maremmani, which perhaps are not typically related to Easter but then it’s always a good day for tortelli.