The last few years on the Saturday before Palm Sunday, a group of us gets together to carry on a tradition of our Italian ancestors, which is to decorate olive branches with ribbons and candies. It’s a day I always look forward to. We know that Holy Week is upon us with the Resurrection and Easter just around the corner.
In Italy, and in particular the area around Naples & Salerno, the faithful give out olive branches with goodies on them. They are kind of like an Easter basket. The branches can hold chocolates, candies, or even caciocavallo cheese.
It is a great tradition that is unfortunately being lost here in the States. It is so important to continue these traditions and to pass them onto the younger generations. Because if we don’t preserve them, sadly they will cease to exist. So it is nice that we make it a point to come together to decorate the olive branches. And it’s all thanks to the effort and knowledge of my good friend Patrick O’Boyle. He is a repository of knowledge on many Italian traditions and customs.
Patrick organizes this yearly gathering. We meet at the local convent of the Franciscan Sisters of St. Elizabeth in Nutley, New Jersey, which is one of the last bastions of Italian-Americans in North Jersey. Our group is growing as we get more and more young people involved. Of course, being Italian-Americans, we also enjoy breaking bread together. Today, we had some delicious polpette di riso (rice balls) and potato croquettes from A & S Italian Pork Store on Franklin Avenue in Nutley. We also had a little bit of fresh mozzarella.
There’s something truly special about being together laughing, eating, talking, and carrying on traditions. I always say that my passions are faith, family, friends, and food. And as someone with Italian heritage will tell you, these are the fundamentals of our lives. They are ingrained in our DNA. And like I stated above we have to share these important tenants of life with our children and grandchildren. I hope you all have a Blessed Palm Sunday and Holy Week. God bless.
Pax et bonum,
Anthony “Tony Mangia” Scillia