March 2009 Newsletter

March, 2009  NEWSLETTER

The Traditions of Easter     

As with almost all "Christian" holidays, Easter has been secularized and commercialized. The dichotomous nature of Easter and its symbols, however, is not necessarily a modern fabrication.

Since its conception as a holy celebration in the second century, Easter has had its non-religious side. In fact, Easter was originally a pagan festival.

The ancient Saxons celebrated the return of spring with an uproarious festival commemorating their goddess of offspring and of springtime, Eastre. When the second-century Christian missionaries encountered the tribes of the north with their pagan celebrations, they attempted to convert them to Christianity. They did so, however, in a clandestine manner.

It would have been suicide for the very early Christian converts to celebrate their holy days with observances that did not coincide with celebrations that already existed. To save lives, the missionaries cleverly decided to spread their religious message slowly throughout the populations by allowing them to continue to celebrate pagan feasts, but to do so in a Christian manner.

As it happened, the pagan festival of Eastre occurred at the same time of year as the Christian observance of the Resurrection of Christ. It made sense, therefore, to alter the festival itself, to make it a Christian celebration as converts were slowly won over. The early name, Eastre, was eventually changed to its modern spelling, Easter.

The Date of Easter

Prior to A.D. 325, Easter was variously celebrated on different days of the week, including Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. In that year, the Council of Nicaea was convened by emperor Constantine. It issued the Easter Rule which states that Easter shall be celebrated on the first Sunday that occurs after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox. However, a caveat must be introduced here. The "full moon" in the rule is the ecclesiastical full moon, which is defined as the fourteenth day of a tabular lunation, where day 1 corresponds to the ecclesiastical New Moon. It does not always occur on the same date as the astronomical full moon. The ecclesiastical "vernal equinox" is always on March 21. Therefore, Easter must be celebrated on a Sunday between the dates of March 22 and April 25.

The Easter Bunny

The Easter Bunny is not a modern invention. The symbol originated with the pagan festival of Eastre. The goddess, Eastre, was worshipped by the Anglo-Saxons through her earthly symbol, the rabbit.

The Germans brought the symbol of the Easter rabbit to America. It was widely ignored by other Christians until shortly after the Civil War. In fact, Easter itself was not widely celebrated in America until after that time.

The Easter Egg

As with the Easter Bunny and the holiday itself, the Easter Egg predates the Christian holiday of Easter. The exchange of eggs in the springtime is a custom that was centuries old when Easter was first celebrated by Christians.

From the earliest times, the egg was a symbol of rebirth in most cultures. Eggs were often wrapped in gold leaf or, if you were a peasant, colored brightly by boiling them with the leaves or petals of certain flowers .

Today, children hunt colored eggs and place them in Easter baskets along with the modern version of real Easter eggs -- those made of plastic or chocolate candy.


Special for Easter Italian Easter Cookies
Italian Easter Cookies

These traditional Italian Easter Cookies are flavored
with vanilla and almond. Tied in a loose knot and baked,
they are then frosted with icing in the colors of Easter-
light green, yellow and pink.

$12.97 per dozen
2 doz. minimum order

Order by April 4th  for Easter delivery
Free pack of Bellagio Italian coffee with every order received by April 4th

I got this cookie recipe from Mama D (Giovanna D'Agostino) when I visited her Minneapolis Italian restaurant back in 1996. I enjoyed these anise flavored cookies then, and still enyoy them today.

Anise Cookies

4  eggs

1  cup sugar
1  tsp vanilla
2  Tbsp anise seed
1/2  cup milk
1  cup shortening
4  tsp baking powder
3 to 4 cups flour

Preheat oven to 350º
Beat eggs well. Add sugar, vanilla, milk and anise seed. Mix well again.

In another bowl mix 3 cups flour, baking powder and shortening. Add liquid mixture to this. You may have to add more flour or milk to make a cookie dough consistency.

Roll in desired shapes on slightly floured board.
Bake in greased pan for one hour at 350.

Pastas in Italy vary according to size, cuts, shapes, and stuffings.
In Florence, you would be remiss not to order cannelloni (a large pasta stuffed with meat) or pappardelle (lasagne-like noodles). Stop in Bologna and sample lasagne, tortellini (pasta filled with meat or cheese), or tagliatelle alla bolognese (pasta in a meat sauce made with butter, cream, ham, beef, celery, carrots, bacon, and onions).

In the Veneto region, pasta e fasoi, (pasta with cannellini beans) is served up in a hearty portion. In Umbria, spaghetti is the specialty served under delicious sauces. Abruzzo boasts about its fettuccine and  spaghetti recipes; Molise brings out maccheroni alla chitarra ("guitar" pasta, from the name of a wooden frame with metal strings on which it is cut), fusilli (spiral-shaped pasta), and ravioli (rectangular, filled pasta) recipes.

Travel farther southwest and once in Naples pasta reigns: ziti, bucatini (tubular pasta), cannolicchi (short tubular pasta), linguini, and spaghetti. Apulia is a region of wonderful pasta dishes, among them orecchiette (little ears), mignuice (dumplings), laganelle (lasagna-like noodles), and panzerotti (a kind of ravioli).

Still farther south one encounters Sicily and its magnificent pasta recipes utilizing home-made macaroni, as well as gnocchi (dumplings) and cavatoni incannati (pasta prepared with a rich sauce of tuna, meat, or tomato, accompanied by zucchini or fried eggplant).

Till next time - have happy days.
Thanks much for your interest in Italian cookies and Italian traditions.
Come visit us soon or send a note

Have a blessed and happy Easter. 

Arrivederci  -  Dio ti benedica
Rev. Fr. Mike
Copyright © 2009 Rev. Michael Librandi