How COVID-19 is changing Italy’s most cherished traditions

Easter is one of the most well-known religious events because there are more than 2 billion Christians in the world. But if you want the best party, you don’t have to look any further than Italy. No one else celebrates Easter like the Italians do, from the huge Easter Mass at the Vatican to the fun family picnics of Pasquetta.

But the coronavirus outbreak, which is still going on around the world, has made it impossible to celebrate, even Easter. Millions of people are now looking for new ways to celebrate this important holiday while keeping the social distance that is so important.

In this quick guide, we’ll look at a brief history of Easter in Rome and five important Easter customs in Italy that have changed because of COVID-19.

Let’s get started.

A Very Short Overview of Easter
Did you know? Italy is the origin of many holiday customs that are used all over the world. Italian culture is the source of many Christian holiday customs, from Christmas celebrations in Africa to Lent in the United States. And you knew it… Easter is the same.

Yes, Jesus is the reason why we celebrate Christmas. But do you know for sure where the Easter custom came from? Put it down for… the Romans!

Imagine this: During the time of Constantine I, a thousand years ago, a group of Roman religious leaders chose to make the Church and its celebrations the same all over the empire. This group, which is called the First Council of Nicaea, made the first Easter celebrations in Italy.

So, how do people usually celebrate Easter in Italy?

First up is Carnevale, also called “carnival.” It is a couple of weeks of masks, parades, and eating that lead up to Shrove Tuesday, also called “Mardi Gras,” which is the day before Ash Wednesday.

Then they take part in Lent. This time of thinking, making amends, and making sacrifices lasts for 40 days. Holy Week is the last week of Lent. It is a week of events that remember the last days of Christ’s life.

Holy Week ends with Easter, which is a celebration of the return of Christ. This holiday in Italy has its own parades, local and national celebrations, and the Easter Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square, which is attended by tens of thousands of people.

As you can see, there are a lot of people at these events. What’s wrong? COVID-19 has stopped people from getting together to celebrate.

What’s good? Papa Francesco (Pope Francis) and other Italian officials have come up with a plan to help the rest of the world enjoy Easter safely. Read on to find out how you can have a traditional Roman Easter from the comfort of your own living room.

Where to Find Easter and Holy Week Services at the Vatican That You Can Watch Live Online Podcasts of Vatican News
Catholic TV Shows News from the Vatican
Five important Italian Easter traditions and how COVID-19 is changing them for 2020.
Easter is a big part of life in Italy. Italy celebrates events like Good Friday and the Easter Vigil in a much bigger way than other places in the world.

Because of COVID-19, it is sad that all Mass services have been banned… at least in public. But Pope Francis has given the faithful a new plan to follow and said that ALL Holy Week celebrations will take place in St. Peter’s Basilica, at the Altar of the Chair.

Palm Sunday Mass 

The Sunday before Easter is one of the most important holy days. Palm Sunday is what we are talking about. Usually, up to 40,000 people attend the Palm Sunday Mass at St. Peter’s.

Tradition says that the day starts at the Vatican and ends in St. Peter’s Square with a parade of palm leaves and olive branches. This shows that Jesus went to Jerusalem before he was arrested and put to death on a cross. After the Palm Procession, the day ends with a Mass service.

This year, April 5 is Palm Sunday. The Pope tells the faithful to pray at home at 11 a.m. while he does the liturgical service at the Altar of the Chair.

Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Way of the Cross

Holy Thursday, also called Maundy Thursday, is one of the events that has changed the most this year. The morning Chrism Mass will NOT be held for the first time.

The place where the Mass of the Lord’s Supper will be held Thursday evening will also be different. That night, the Pope will celebrate it at the Vatican instead of at a hospital or jail. The customary “washing of the feet” won’t happen.

Good Friday is the most important day in the Christian calendar, and the Via Crucis in Rome marks it. Traditionally, this day is a time to fast, do penance, and think about how Christ died on the cross.
Easter Sunday and Holy Saturday
The Easter Vigil Mass is held on Holy Saturday night. It is led by the Pope at St. Peter’s Basilica, where thousands of people usually gather that night before Easter Sunday. But this year, the Vigil Mass will be like the other events, and the Pope wants the faithful to watch and pray at home at 9 p.m.

The Vatican held Easter Mass.

We’ve all been waiting for this day… Sunday of Easter. Hallelujah! Sunday morning Easter Mass at the Vatican is usually one of the biggest Easter parties in the world.

In fact, up to 80,000 people can fit in St. Peter’s Square! Tens of thousands of people gather in the Square every Sunday morning to hear the Pope give Mass. Most of the time, free tickets for this special event run out months in advance. But because the coronavirus is spreading so quickly, Pope Francis will do something that has never been done before: he will hold Easter Sunday mass without the people there.

But you can still take part by watching Easter morning Mass at the Vatican on April 12 at 11 a.m. After that, the Pope will give his usual “to the city and the world,” or “urbi et orbi,” blessing.

Easter Monday (Pasquetta)

Italians have a holiday on the Monday after Easter to enjoy Pasquetta, or “Little Easter,” by going on picnics. This is the last big event of the Easter season. The Villa Borghese and the Villa Pamphili are both popular places for Pasquetta events. Both are important Roman parks where people can spend the day with friends and family and enjoy the sun.

But since big gatherings in public aren’t allowed and most parks are closed, Pasquetta will have to be enjoyed at home. Family and friends can talk to each other over FaceTime or Zoom, and traditional food will be given at home.

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