written by Eleonora Aiello
Among the various religious traditions rooted in the culture of Massa Lubrense, there are certainly some very peculiar ones that make it unique. And it is precisely the case of the traditions of the Easter period. In this article, we will analyze the habits and rituals that most represent this area during Holy Week.
Lent (in Italian “Quaresima”) represents for Catholics a period of penance and fasting in preparation for Easter. This phase of abstinence, in the Roman rite, runs from Ash Wednesday until sunset on Holy Thursday.
In the Sorrento peninsula there is an ancient custom of preparing “la vecchia” (= “the old woman”), a small doll in black clothes that, in the popular imagination, personifies “Quarantana”, a thin and skimpy old woman. Dressed in a long skirt, black handkerchief on the head, distaff, and spindle in hand, the doll is hung outside the houses. Under her skirt, she has an onion, or a potato, skewered with seven chicken feathers that act as a ritual calendar: one feather is removed every Sunday, while the last one is removed at noon on Holy Saturday.
The palm Sunday
As a first appointment, we must mention that of Palm Sunday, the day in which we remember the triumphal entry into Jerusalem of Jesus, riding a donkey and acclaimed by the crowd who greeted him As a first appointment we must mention that of Palm Sunday, the day in which we remember the triumphal entry into Jerusalem of Jesus, riding a donkey and acclaimed by the crowd who greeted him waving palm branches.
In the territory of Massa Lubrense, the palms are often replaced by olive branches, blessed in a ceremony that takes place in the church, which each faithful will decorate and embellish. Traditionally, these olive branches are adorned with the addition of small caciocavalli, locally produced cheeses, small salamis, and colored sugared almonds.
Palm branches with intertwined leaves are also used. The weaving work must be done a few days before the blessing because the palm leaves dry quickly, thin, and spoil easily. Before proceeding with the weaving, each leaf must be clean or freed from the woody part that covers it, and the leaves that are too pungent must be removed.
The foot-washing ceremony
But the religious rites that most distinguish this area are, without any doubt, those of Holy Thursday and Good Friday. The first recalls the institution of the Eucharist during the Last Supper where Jesus washed the feet of the Twelve Apostles. To commemorate this event, the ceremony of the foot-washing is celebrated during the Mass in Coena Domini, where the priest washes the feet of twelve people representing the twelve apostles. Furthermore, from Thursday evening the church bells will remain “tied”, that is, mute.
During Holy Week, processions of hooded people walk the streets of the town symbolically representing the passion and death of Jesus. They are distinguished from each other by the color of the garments, the times of exit and the choirs that accompany them. Two processions are held in Massa Lubrense: one starts from Torca, the other from Massa center.
All the itineraries of the processions can be found on the website processioni.com. In addition to Massa Lubrense, the processions also take place in the municipalities of Sorrento, Sant’Agnello, Piano, and Meta.
Easter and Easter Monday
Easter Sunday is announced by the sacred and solemn ringing of the bells which, finally, can be dissolved to ring in “glory”.
The following Easter Monday is called “Pasquetta”: on this day, even if there is often bad weather, families and friends use to have a nice outing with a picnic in nature.