Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Sicilian style

Easter is a very important celebration here in Sicily, perhaps even more so than Christmas. The tradition implies that everyone dresses up in their best clothes, possibly attends a church service and then heads to the nearest town or village to watch the Easter parade. After the parade they head home for a feast meal among friends and family including lamb, pasta and tortes or cakes. For our friends at the pasticceria this means that it’s one of the busiest days of the year, so we asked if we could lend them a helping hand.

As we got to the pasticceria the place was buzzing with customers, cakes, tortes and the now familiar smell of fresh pastry and vanilla. We thought that we’d woken up early (to the sounds of an 8 canon salute at 8 o’clock), but they had been up since 3am creating the wonderful cakes and pastries.

We tried to help out as much as we could without being in the way, keeping the place tidy, arranging new sweets on the display and packing the ones that were ready for the customers. The highlight for A was to be a barista, using their industrial size espresso machine to make coffees for thirsty customers, whilst “mini” was charming everybody smiling in her daddy's arms.

After a few hours at the pasticceria, we were told that the parade was approaching and that we shouldn’t miss the spectacle. It didn’t take long before the roads started filling with people, almost all dressed in black, awaiting the different banners from local churches and schools and the stars of the show; the statues of St. Miguel, Mary and Jesus.

As the parade approached the crowds applauded and even the smallest children were caught up in the festive atmosphere, clapping and chanting on their parents shoulders.

People followed the parade on its route through the town until a huge mass of people were gathered in the center. Then everyone waited expectantly for the statues of Mary, Jesus and St. Miguel to arrive from three different directions for the “l’incontro” – or the meeting.

It was a strange and interesting sight to see the Easter story acted out by statues carried at shoulder height, in the middle of a crowded town. Yet again we managed to be completely underdressed for the occasion, and stood out like sore-thumbs in the crowd of immaculately dressed Sicilians! No-one seemed to mind though; they were all too busy cheering at the statue of Jesus and we were happy to have experienced our first Pasqua Sicilian style. Happy Easter!

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