An Easter Like No Other | Easter Rome 2020
Easter is a popular time for us all, a long weekend off work and a time to gather with family, relax and of course eat chocolate eggs. Thanks to COVID-19 things will be a little different. Social distancing means no gatherings and fewer eggs as it becomes impossible to give these to loved ones or even order online!
It is also a popular time to visit Rome. Not only is it a capital city packed with history, art, food and blessed with fine weather; but also, for religious reasons. This year, the city is empty. Rome has been in serious lockdown (total closure of everything) for one month. The grand Piazzas and quaint cobbled back streets are deserted and the city is enveloped in an eery silence. We can honestly say this will be the strangest Easter ever in living history.
By Easter the tourist season is normally well underway and the most popular tourist destinations the Vatican museums and the Colosseum would have long lines to enter; today they are closed until further notice. For the first time in history, the pope will address an eerily empty piazza San Pietro giving the usual mass and blessings devoid of his congregation, the Via Crucis is cancelled. Italians everywhere will miss out on their first big outing of the season on Easter Monday; Pasquetta.
As the temperature hits 22 degrees, the sun shines on empty piazzas which would normally be teeming with people enjoying their Aperol spritz in the sun. What will people do instead? What traditional Easter activities are there? Which are cancelled and what can still go ahead?
In Italy Easter or Pasqua is the second most important holiday after Christmas. As Rome is the head of the catholic church, it has been a pilgrim destination since the 4th century AD. Back then the pilgrims came to St Peter’s Basilica to visit the shrine of St Peter, today religious visitors have a number of important churches and ceremonies to partake in.
This is the busiest time of year for the pope, he has a packed diary of mass, blessings and a traditional procession. Whilst numerous services are held over Easter, many in St Peter’s Basilica or in the square; but the most important event is the Via Crucis or Stations of the Cross held on the Friday before Easter (Good Friday). It is not an official public holiday, but many private businesses close. Even the colosseum, which closes only two days a year shuts down in the afternoon to prepare as it too features in the celebrations since the 1800s.
For those brought up catholic, the Via Crucis is well known. It is a procession with 14 stages representing events on Christ’s last day from him carrying the cross, Veronica wiping his brow to his crucifixion and entombment. Every Catholic church has the ‘stations of the cross’ normally 14 paintings showing the various stages in picture form. In England the service starts at 3 pm and the priest and congregation stop at each image and pray.
The Via Crucis in Rome is a huge affair and is something to behold whether you are religious or not. The parade starts on the palatine hill and ends at the colosseum. The climax is later in the evening at 9 pm when a gigantic cross placed near the colosseum is lit up and everyone prays together.
“Natale con i tuoi, a Pasqua con chi vuoi.” (Christmas with parents, Easter with whomever you want)
For the younger generation this is the highlight of Easter and the famous saying has an air of liberation and celebration to it.
The Vatican has Youtube Guys
This year, for the first time in over 60 years the Via Crucis was held in St Peter’s Square with the stations along the colonnade. There was no parade, no huge cross lighting the night sky next to the colosseum and the throngs of faithful were absent. In the human nature of adaptation all of the Vatican’s Easter proceedings can be found on the official youtube channel which will digitalise Easter Rome 2020.
Happy Easter from Carpe Diem Rome ❤️
It goes without saying there is one thing we can all still do to celebrate Easter, that the Italians do best and that is EAT! I know you are circling your house or apartment in lockdown and opening the fridge every hour….. It’s Easter so you may as well take advantage of the surplus amounts of chocolate and call your loved ones. Happy Easter from the team at Carpe Diem Rome.