FO­CUS ON

The rit­u­als and pro­ces­sions of Holy Week, the fes­tive menu and the lo­cal folk­loris­tic tra­di­tions as­so­ci­ated with Easter in Naples. This year, Easter falls on 20 April, bring­ing with it a feel­ing of spring and a de­sire for re­newal.

Where Naples Coast & Islands - - The Guide -

Easter in Naples: the rit­u­als and pro­ces­sions of Holy Week and the fes­tive menu

Easter is a move­able feast. It falls on the first Sun­day af­ter the full moon fol­low­ing the spring equinox. The Chris­tian world will thus cel­e­brate Easter on 20 April mean­ing that the weather is likely to be warm, herald­ing the on­set of sum­mer, and bring­ing with it a de­sire to shake off the grey­ness of the past win­ter months and start afresh, the metaphor­i­cal sense of the fes­tiv­ity, as­so­ci­ated with the res­ur­rec­tion of Christ.

Holy Week en­vis­ages var­i­ous highly evoca­tive cer­e­monies. It starts on 17 April with Holy Thurs­day, when, culi­nary tra­di­tion has it that mus­sel soup should be eaten in or­der to tackle the via Cru­cis with­out feel­ing overly full. In fact, dur­ing the night be­tween Holy Thurs­day and Good Fri­day, ac­cord­ing to Neapoli­tan tra­di­tion, it is cus­tom­ary to visit graves at churches. By tra­di­tion, you should visit at least three or, how­ever, an odd num­ber. This cus­tom is also known as the “str­uscio” ow­ing to the fact that in the 18th century, a ban was pub­lished for­bid­ding people to cir­cu­late with horses and carts in via Toledo. There­fore, in or­der to ob­serve the grave-vis­it­ing rit­ual, devo­tees were forced to travel on foot. Be­cause of the num­ber of people throng­ing the streets, the pro­ces­sion was slow and people tended to drag their feet on the cob­ble­stones. Even the fabrics of the new clothes worn for the oc­ca­sion tended to rub against each other to pro­duce a rustling sound known in Ital­ian as “str­uscio”. Good Fri­day and Easter Satur­day are de­voted to pro­ces­sions.

For ex­am­ple, in Pro­cida, one of the most im­por­tant is the pro­ces­sion of “Mys­ter­ies”, reen­act­ing the “Pas­sion of Christ”. The young men of the is­land build and carry heavy al­le­gor­i­cal floats, made from one or more planks of wood, mea­sur­ing up to eight me­tres, on which rep­re­sen­ta­tions of the Old and New Tes­ta­ment are mounted. A highly un­usual tra­di­tion is the one played out on the Coast where, amidst drum rolls, in­cense and hymns, the “in­cap­puc­ciati”( hooded fig­ures) take to the streets. There are about twenty themed pro­ces­sions scat­tered be­tween

Castel­lam­mare and Massa Lubrense. In Mi­nori a tra­di­tion is per­formed by devo­tees known as

“bat­tenti” (flag­el­lants) in a bid to ex­punge their sins: on the Thurs­day be­fore Easter, from the af­ter­noon on­wards, more than one hun­dred par­tic­i­pants, wear­ing white tu­nics and thick rope belts pa­rade through the streets in mem­ory of the flag­el­la­tion. Con­versely, early on Fri­day morn­ing, cel­e­bra­tions start at 5.30am with the chant­ing of century-old hymns known as “e ‘ncoppe”, a cul­tural and his­toric her­itage of Mi­nori, pro­tected by the Min­istry for Cul­ture and the En­vi­ron­ment. Af­ter the pro­ces­sions, tra­di­tional Easter rit­u­als and mass on Easter Sun­day, it’s time to re­lax and en­joy a lav­ish tra­di­tional Neapoli­tan Easter

meal. The feast starts with “fel­lata”, i.e. a se­ries of typ­i­cal Cam­pa­nian cold cuts ar­ranged on a huge plat­ter: Neapoli­tan and Mi­lanese salami, capi­collo, a tra­di­tional Ital­ian cold cut made from a whole, dry-cured pork shoul­der, Parma ham, sop­pres­sata, an Ital­ian dry salami, sweet or spicy pro­volone cheese, mor­tadella, salted ri­cotta and hard boiled eggs, gar­nished with radishes. The meal continues with the so-called “mines­tra mar­i­tata”, a meat and veg­etable soup which for cen­turies was the sig­na­ture dish of the King­dom of Naples be­fore be­ing re­placed by mac­cheroni. The main course al­ways in­cludes a dish of roast lamb, a sym­bol of Easter, served with peas and cheese, oven-roasted pota­toes, boiled ar­ti­chokes ei­ther ac­com­pa­nied by a vinai­grette sauce or breaded and fried and fresh fen­nel. The meal continues with “casatiello ‘nzogna e pepe”, i.e. a sort of savoury, ring-shaped flan made with lit­tle bits of salami, grated pecorino cheese, sliced hard boiled eggs, pork fat, flour, yeast and pep­per. And, last but not least, “pastiera”, the undis­puted king of Neapoli­tan pastry-mak­ing. In the days leading up to Easter, the houses and streets of the city are filled with the aroma of “mille­fiori” essence, one of the in­gre­di­ents used to make it, fill­ing the air with de­light­fully fra­grant scents. The Easter hol­i­days end on Easter Mon­day, also known in Italy as “Pas­quetta”, when it is cus­tom­ary for Neapoli­tans to take a trip out-of-town. The Neapoli­tans usu­ally or­ga­nize a pic­nic lunch. In fact, part of the tra­di­tion in­volves eat­ing the left­overs from the sump­tu­ous Sun­day meal!

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