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THURSDAY, APRIL 18, 2019 www.italoamericano.org L'Italo-Americano 2 " If you don't know history, you're useless, you're like a leave that doesn't know it comes from a tree." That's more or less what Michael Crichton, author of — among other novels— sci-fi best seller Jurassic Park, had once written. Let's use his words as a starting point to speak about tradition, the union of behavior, habits and knowledge passed from one generation to the next, typical of a place and of a social context, shared by whole communities, and that identifies them specifically among others. Easter, just like Christmas and Thanksgiving, brings along a plethora of rituals and traditions often typical of a place or of a social, even familiar, environment. It's much more than a date on the calendar, even for people who aren't religious, because it holds within also a piece of history. Without a doubt, there are knowledge, behaviors and habits typical of a family's own history, that help built one's personal identity; in a similar way, there are fragments of local history, fragments made of traditions and customs, that make up a people's social identity. These are the very traits that make us who we are, they are markers of our place in the world, signs that show our uniqueness through difference and that pinpoint the very place where we started as individuals, before any evolution and cultural and social contaminations influenced us. In this sense, traditions are a stable point, a way to "go back home" that serves us as a compass and reference. A bit like our family home: we may travel around the world, live ten years in the East and 15 below the Equator, speak 4 languages and be accustomed with other habits and cultures, but when we get back home, we'll always find a piece of ourselves. The tree where the leaf comes from, to say it with Crichton in TimeLine. Traditions are important, they are the foundation of who we are socially and as individuals: we define ourselves through their rituals and these rituals bind us to a place, they give us the tools to be part of it, to interact with contexts, cultures and societies. And then, they are the very essence we carry around with us, wherever we go: so if we are used to celebrating Thanksgiving or Chinese New Year, we will Easter in Italy: discovering social rituals that identify communities From the director continue to do so even if we are at the North Pole, far from everyone. All this serves us to understand why Easter and its rituals help make a piece of Italian and Italian-American culture and identity known. Processions, community prayers, dressed, bejeweled statues covered with ex voto or rosaries, carried on shoulder along the streets of towns and cities. But also the historical and social value of the confraternite, the choice of colors in priestly vestments or for the clothes of those impersonating the Mysteries, the food eaten, the fasts observed: these are not simply Holy Week's events. From a touristic point of view, they make this time of the year the "right" moment to experience first hand what many superficially call "local folklore." But if we go beneath the surface, if we can understand the popular emotions created by those rituals even if we are simple tourists, we'll not only understand more about a place and its community, but we'll also make sense of behaviors we may consider strange and obsolete, or anachronistic quirks. We'll manage to perceive and truly get to know a piece of local history and identity. If we stop taking a picture after the other, turn off that smartphone, and look in the eyes of the people taking part in these rituals, we'll understand why the "Vattienti" of Nocera Terinese (Calabria) beat their legs until they bleed and scream in pain, or why the statue of the Virgin in Sulmona (Abruzzo), quite literally, runs around the town's main square loosing, while doing it, the black veil symbol of her mourning to show the happiness of seeing her son resurrected. We will understand why the Taranto confraternita of the "Perdune" (Puglia) walks barefoot, dressed in a hooded tunic with only two small holes to see through, and visits all the sepolcri, the altars of repose, as a reminder of those pilgrims who used to walk, themselves barefoot, to Rome to expiate their sins through physical penance. It will become clear why in Orte (Lazio), confraternite, with their crosses and symbols, walk before the penitents, their feet in chains, and the piangenti, crying ladies, Marys in black, all gathered around the statue of the Dead Christ. Or why the Passion is represented with living paintings that walk around Romagnano Sesia (Piemonte). From North to South, these are rituals born from historical, social and religious stratifications that, throughout the centuries, enriched the way Easter is celebrated in Italy, but also built the identity of whole communities. Between penitence and sorrow, belief and veneration, prayer and mysticism, they face the mystery of existence and faith through a collective reflection, through an identifying social ritual. Simone Schiavinato, Director NEWS & FEATURES TOP STORIES PEOPLE EVENTS

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