What is celebrated on Easter Monday and why Easter Monday is considered a national holiday

The day of Easter Mondayalso called Easter Monday or Easter Mondaycommemorates an event narrated in the Gospels: the day following the resurrection of Jesus, three women named Mary, known as the three Marys, they went to his tomb to embalm the body, but they found the tomb empty and were dismayed until an angel, who appeared in heaven, informed them that Jesus had risen. It is therefore a Christian religious occasion, but is often experienced as one civil holiday, officially recognized by Italian institutions and those of many other countries to “extend” Easter by one day. On Easter Monday, which this year falls on the first of Aprilspecifications are associated popular traditions. In Italy, the most widespread is that of trip out of town. In the rest of the world Easter Monday is not considered an important and awaited date like in Italy. Even in our country the names of the day they are different from those used elsewhere.

What is celebrated on Easter Monday and why it is called Easter Monday

The question is less trivial than it might appear. The term Pasquetta – which, as is easy to imagine, is the diminutive of Easter – is in use only in Italy and it's one word of popular origin widespread for a few decades. In our country the day is also called Easter Monday, in memory of the event narrated by Gospel according to Mark about the angel who announced the resurrection of Christ.

The name Easter Monday, however, is not officially accepted by the liturgical calendar and, like Easter Monday, is used only in Italy. In other countries the day after Easter is called more generically Easter Monday (Easter Monday in English, Monday of Paques in French, etc.).

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The three Marys at the tomb
The three Marys at the tomb

The religious meaning and why it is celebrated on Monday

For the Church, Easter Monday is the second day of Easter timea period that lasts fifty days and should be lived with joy for the resurrection of Jesus. It is also the first day ofOctave of Easter, which lasts eight days. In the past the Easter Season and the Octave were experienced with greater involvement by the population, while today, despite being part of the liturgical calendar, they are almost ignored. For the Church, after all, Easter Monday it is not a celebration of obligation and the faithful are not obliged to attend mass. Easter Monday it is celebrated on Monday for a very simple reason: it is the day after Easter which, as we know, always falls on a Sunday.

Where Easter Monday is celebrated

Easter Monday is one civil holiday, with schools and offices closed, in almost all of Europe, in various African countries, in Canada, in Australia and in other states. Instead it is a normal working day in other countries with a Christian majority, including the United States and Russia, as well as, logically, in states where other religions prevail.

In Italy it is Easter Monday a public holiday since 1947when the government decided to extend the Christmas and Easter holidays by one day, establishing that the days following the two anniversaries (Boxing Day and Easter Monday) were not working days.

The Easter Monday trip out of town

In Italy, the most widespread and deep-rooted Easter Monday tradition is the out-of-town trip, often understood as a group outing to have an outdoor picnic or have lunch in a farmhouse. The tradition spread above all starting from the 1950s, the period of economic miracle and modernization of society, and has become more and more popular with each passing year. For example, in 2023, according to Coldiretti, 43% of Italians took part in a trip. Not all Italians, however, choose picnics and farmhouses: other citizens prefer cities, museums and beaches.

The barbecue is widely used on Easter Monday (credits Alessio Sbarbaro)
The barbecue is a very important “accessory” of the Easter Monday trip (credits: Alessio Sbarbaro)

Customs in other countries

The tradition of the picnic exists in a few other countries, including La Spain. In some states different customs are widespread. For example, in Poland Easter Monday is popularly called Śmigus-dyngus (wet Monday), because boys throw buckets of water at girls or, in other cases, playfully hit them with willow branches. The tradition is also observed by Polish emigrants living abroad.

Smigus-dyngus in Poland in 2010 (credits Silar)
Smigus–dyngus in Poland in 2010 (credits Silar)

In other countries, including many of those that recognize the day as a public holiday, not there are specific customs of Easter Monday. Even in the United States – where, as we have seen, the day is a working day – there are no popular traditions linked to the anniversary, but there is a custom that involves the White House: a group of children under the age of thirteen gather on one of the lawns located at the presidential residence and compete in a competition egg rolling (egg rolling) before the eyes of the president and first lady. Whoever gets the eggs the furthest without them breaking wins.

Joe Biden at the 2023 Egg Rolling
Joe Biden at the 2023 Egg Rolling

Coldiretti, Easter Monday: picnics and trips for 4 out of 10 Italians, 10 April 2023, Dingus Day Buffalo Vanityfair, Easter Monday, the origins of the out-of-town trip