Sunday, 13 April 2014

The Holy Week: let's study cultural and religious topics comparing different cultures.

 Today the Holy Week begins.
Let's compare different cultures: 
some Easter religious traditions in 
the UK and Italy.
Holy Week is the week leading up to Easter and is the most solemn week of the Christian year. During this week Christians remember the last week of Jesus' life. Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday.
Palm Sunday 
Palm Sunday commemorates Christ's triumphant arrival in Jerusalem to the cheers of the crowd. In many churches, during Palm Sunday services, large palm branches are carried in processions.

 Palm Sunday in Italy
On Sunday morning, the priest followed by all the people waving palms, goes in procession from the church' yard to the church and there he blesses the little branches that everyone brings at home after the Mass. In the South of Italy the palms are mostly
made using branches of olives. People prepare branches of different sizes and decorated them with flowers, ribbons or holy pictures. 

 Palm Sunday in the UK

Many churches provide people with small crosses made from palm leaves at Palm Sunday services.  The priests bless these palms and people preserve them to make the Ash Wednesday ashes for the next year. Churches may also have a procession during which people sing songs and wave their palm leaves. Some churches give people pax cakes at the end of the Mass.

Maundy Thursday
Maundy Thursday is the Thursday before Easter. It is the day of the Last Supper, when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and established the ceremony known as the Eucharist. The night of Maundy Thursday is the night on which Jesus was betrayed by Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane. The word maundy comes from the command (mandate) given by Jesus during the Last Supper:  love one another.

Maundy Thursday in Italy
In Italy this day is known as Holy Thursday. On this day each Italian church prepare a "sepolcro", a sepulchre. The term sepolcro is a sort of altar or chapel of repose. It is a solemn exposition of floral compositions consisting of  wheat and seasonal flowers or plants and it is the symbol of Jesus’ transition from death to rebirth. Churches hold these sepulchcres until the afternoon of Good Friday, when the flowers and wheat will be distributed to the observants during sacramental communion.

Maundy Thursday in the UK
 In Britain, the sovereign takes part in the Ceremony of the Royal Maundy. This ceremony, held at a great cathedral, involves the distribution of Maundy money to deserving senior citizens (one man and one woman for each year of the sovereign's age), usually chosen for having done service to their community. They receive ceremonial red and white purses which contain coins made especially for the occasion. The white purse contains one coin for each year of the monarch's reign. The red purse contains money in place of other gifts that used to be given to the poor.
Good Friday
Good Friday is the Friday before Easter. It commemorates the Passion of Jesus and his death by crucifixion. It is a day of mourning in church, in fact during Good Friday services Christians meditate on Jesus' suffering and death on the cross. In some countries, there are special Good Friday processions, or re-enactments of the Crucifixion.

Good Friday in Italy
On Holy Friday solemn religious processions with statues are held in many towns. Many churches have special statues of the Virgin, of Jesus and all the protagonist of Christ's passion. The statues parade through the city and are then displayed in the main square or in a church. Parade participants are dressed in traditional ancient costumes.
While Easter mass is be held in every church, the biggest and most popular mass is held by the Pope at Saint Peter's Basilica. On Holy Friday, the Pope celebrates the Via Crucis or Stations of the Cross in Rome near the Colosseum. He carries a huge cross with burning torches and at the end of the celebration he gives the world a blessing.

Good Friday in the UK
Many Catholics do not eat meat on Good Friday. Many people eat hot cross buns on this day. These are made of leavened dough, sugar, currants and spices. The top of the bun is marked with a cross and filled with flour and water paste or rice paper.

Holy Saturday
The Easter Eve service on the night of Holy Saturday is the first Easter service. It's the day when Jesus lay in his tomb. During this service Christians wait hopefully that Jesus will return at midnight. 

Holy Saturday in Italy
In Italy on this day there are masses and some religious processions.

Holy Saturday in the UK
The Easter, or Paschal, candle is lit during this service. The mass traditionally begins outside the church, where the minister and some worshippers gather around a fire and light the candle. After being lit outside, the candle is carried into the church, where the worshippers are waiting in darkness, which symbolises the darkness of Christ's tomb.
Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday in Italy
On this day at Vatican City there is the famous Easter Sunday Mass. 

Easter is the end of the Lent season, so food plays a big part in the Easter Sunday celebrations! Traditional Easter foods include lamb or goat, artichokes, and special Easter breads. Colomba (it means "dove" because it is dove-shaped) is a typical sweet. 

Chocolate eggs are also popular, especially among children and they usually come with a surprise inside.

The Monday following Easter, la Pasquetta, is also a holiday in Italy. On Easter Monday, people usually go away from the towns and cities and go to the countryside or to the sea to have a picnic. Easter Monday is a time to gather with friends and have fun.

Easter Sunday in the UK
Priests usually emphasize the dawn of a new life during the Easter Mass.

Easter eggs are very popular in the UK, too.  Children decorate eggs with paint, crayon, water colors, stickers and other material and they are often put in Easter baskets. In the United Kingdom, Easter eggs are often large hollow chocolate eggs filled with bonbons or other candy. 
Many children believe that the Easter bunny comes to their house or garden to hide eggs, so they search for these eggs on Easter morning.

In the UK there are many Easter egg hunts. These can be competitions to see who can collect the most eggs, or somewhere in Britain people roll hard boiled down slopes. In other places, there is a game in which people roll hard boiled eggs against other peoples' eggs.

We've seen some Italian and British Easter traditions.
Are there many differences  between these two countries?
Which tradition do you like most? Why?
How do you usually celebrate Easter?

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