Pasqua is a Catholic celebration of the resurrection of Christ and a very important date in the Italian calendar. In many towns and cities festive traditions still followed such as; processioni per i loro santi (processions for the Saints), rappresentazioni che rimettono in atto le ultime ore della Passione di Cristo (plays that re-enact the last hours of the Passion of Christ) e riti pagani che si legano al solstizio di primavera (Pagan rituals tied to the Springtime solstice). If you ever find yourself in one of these places around Easter time, watch out for these traditions;
People wear red cloaks and big scary masks with long white teeth and horns to represent the devil. All day they go around the town trying to catch as many people as possible. They also have la Morte with them who points to unsuspecting victims around the town. Those symbolically struck by death are captured by the devils and taken to the closest inferno (hell), where they are forced to buy a round for everyone.
In the afternoon la Madonna leaves the main church and meets Christ. The devils try to interrupt this reunion but others dressed as angels capture them and take them to the statue of the Madonna and Cristo where they are forced to remove their masks, ending the event.
Lo scoppio del carro (The explosion of the wagon) is a traditional ceremony that dates back centuries. The story tells of the famous Florentine Capitano Pazzino dei Pazzi who, in 1099, fought valiantly against the unfaithful and received pietre dal Santo Sepolcro (stones from the Holy Sepulchre) in Jeruselem as his reward. Pazzino brought the stones to Firenze, where they were used by the Vescovo (Bishop) on Holy Saturday. By rubbing them with a tinderbox they lit a fire that spread to all the people in the town. From then on, Pazzini’s family laid the foundation of today’s ceremony by building a monumental Carro di Fuoco (wagon of fire) aka Brindellone.
La mattina di Pasqua (On Easter morning) the carro is carried by white oxen from Piazzale di porta to Prato fino to the Duomo. A wire is strung from the carro to the altar in the Cathedral. At one end of the string is a colomba (dove) with an olive branch in its beak which slides along the string towards the carro with a burning fuse attached to it to light the fireworks inside. During mass, when ‘Gloria’ is sung, the Archibishop lights the dove’s rockets and it travels the length of the main nave to set fire to the Carro, then follows the reverse path back to the Main Altar. Se tutto si svolge senza intoppi, per Firenze si preannuncia un anno positivo. (If everything goes smoothly, Florence is promised a good year).