Sunday, April 1, 2012

Palm Sunday in Lodi

Over the past year, it has become somewhat of a tradition of mine to go for a late morning stroll through Lodi’s historic centre on a Sunday. Usually many people are out and about and I love the relaxed atmosphere that stresses the importance of family and friends.

Today was no exception and the beautiful April temperatures brought out even more locals than usual. As I wandered down the cobblestoned streets and lanes, I noticed something out of the ordinary. Many people were carrying what appeared to be olive tree branches as they looked in shop windows that have now been decorated for Easter, or Pasqua as it is known in Italy. “Ciao Danielle!” I heard a voice ring out over the crowd. It was a friend of mine and I asked her what exactly was going on. “It’s Palm Sunday today!” she replied laughing “Go to the cathedral and you will see for yourself.” I took her advice and headed to Piazza della Vittoria where the Basilica Cattedrale della Vergine Assunta is located.

For those of you who are not familiar with the celebration, Palm Sunday marks the beginning of holy week in Italy. It is said to be the day that Jesus Christ rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and was greeted by hoards of followers. The bible describes how the people lined his path with their cloaks and palm leaves, thus giving birth to the name Palm Sunday.

When I arrived at the cathedral, many worshipers were entering and exiting the side doors and I decided to do the same. Once inside I saw that there was a service taking place and all of the seats were occupied, with only standing places remaining. I watched from the shadows for one moment, observing the proceedings in silence along with countless others around me. After several minutes, I noticed a large pile of olive branches on the cathedral’s floor. People exiting the church were taking several of them and leaving a small donation in a collection plate that had been placed upon a table near the door. I asked one woman what the olive branches were for and she explained that they had been blessed and that many people would adorn the crucifixes in their homes with them. Apparently they use olive branches in Italy because they are easier to obtain than palm leaves. Although I am not religious, I made my offering of one Euro and took a neatly packaged bundle of the branches home with me. Perhaps they will bring me good fortune this year.

I returned later on in the day to explore the inside of the cathedral for myself without the masses. I figured that since today was a day of religious significance, I might as well immerse myself in all things catholic. While the outside of the duomo is certainly more impressive than the inside, the cathedral boasts a few beautiful displays. There is also a wonderful museum located up a flight of stairs that houses some of the building’s historic artifacts and sculptures. Oddly enough, although I have lived in Lodi for almost a year now, I had never actually been into the duomo until today and the positive experience has definitely spurred me on to check out the insides of more historical buildings in the area.

After my brush with religion, I elected to explore the Sunday market, which congregates directly behind the cathedral. Although it is not a particularly large market, it is always a fun place to hunt for bargains and to purchase clothing especially.

On the first Sunday of every month in Lodi there is also an antiques and crafts market which takes place near Piazza Castello. This particular market is a treasure trove of oddities and one can spend a great deal of time rummaging through everything from old military helmets to antique furniture. As I strolled at a leisurely pace, greeting various acquaintances of mine along the way, I couldn’t help but feel extremely lucky to be in Lodi. In the background, a band began to play and a man’s voice echoed through the streets. “Summertime, and the living is easy. Fish are jumping and the cotton is high.” He sang with a thick Italian accent. “Your daddy’s rich and your mamma’s good looking. So hush little baby don’t you cry.” It’s moments like these that make you appreciate the beauty of life and pause for just a moment to smell the roses.

While I’m sure that Palm Sunday celebrations may have been more extravagant elsewhere in Italy, the simplicity of Lodi’s observance of the occasion was charming. I love these people’s zest for life and I think that we could all learn a thing or two from the Italians.

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