Studying abroad during the spring semester means that until this week, I hadn’t missed any major holidays back home. However, the end of March brings Passover and Easter, holidays that many students are used to spending with family or friends. It feels strange to miss out on family celebrations that ring in these holidays each year, so finding ways to incorporate your traditions while abroad is a great way to acknowledge the holidays. However, it’s also fun to explore how Romans like to celebrate—”when in Rome, do as the Romans do” ever holds true, and merging your home habits with Italian customs provides for a meaningful and unique holiday celebration experience.
For me, this meant cooking a Roman Jewish Passover dinner for my friend who was arriving to visit. This friend and I had hosted a Seder dinner together at school last year, so we thought it only fitting to bring our Passover dinner celebrations overseas. I took a trip down to the Jewish Ghetto earlier in the week, where I could stock up on matzo before all the shops closed for the holiday. The Jewish Ghetto is renowned for its famous “carciofi alla giudia,” or fried artichokes, so I resolved to attempt to prepare this dish as part of my Seder meal. I found a recipe for chicken with tsimmes, a traditional sweet stew of fruits and vegetables, and bought some Roman broccoli to roast. Last but not least, I made my favorite Passover dessert, matzo brittle, which is basically a chocolate toffee bark made with flourless crackers.
When my friend arrived, we were able to spend our first few hours together catching up in the kitchen—particularly convenient because everything outside was closed for Easter Sunday. Although the fried artichokes did not come out exactly as planned, the meal was delicious overall and allowed us to bring a bit of our own culture to Rome with us. Moreover, we had an excuse to incorporate Roman foods like the fried artichokes and broccoli, making our Seder a uniquely abroad Passover experience.
For people who celebrate Easter, Rome is a great place to be to immerse yourself in traditional holiday festivities. Leading up to Easter Sunday, there are free public masses with the Pope, including one on Good Friday held in the Colosseum! Although everything in the city shuts down on Easter Sunday, it’s a great opportunity to cook a fusion meal much like I did. Romans love Colomba cakes, traditional Easter desserts shaped like doves. Buy a giant chocolate Easter egg that you can find for sale at any grocery store, or the mini eggs that some of the Temple Rome teachers have kindly handed out to us in class. By bringing a taste of home to your celebrations in Rome, while also being open to incorporating new traditions, you can celebrate the holidays in a meaningful way and avoid any sadness that comes from missing out on an annual celebration with family and friends back home.