Praglia Abbey: a Benedictine monastery surrounded by the Euganean Hills

During the Middle Ages, many monks manually copied ancient books so they could be passed on to future generations. Over the years, the invention of the printing press made this work largely obsolete, but thousands of old books remained stored in monasteries. Many of those volumes lies still today in the library of the Benedictine abbey of Santa Maria Assunta of Praglia, an almost 1,000-year-old monastery and maybe one of the most important monumental and religious communities in the area, located in the town of Teolo, only 10 minutes from…

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Easter Lamb: in Sicily, Italy, it is sweet, caloric and made of almond paste!

Eggs, rabbits…we already know what these symbols mean. Also the lamb is one of the most prominent symbols of Easter. In Christianity, it symbolizes purity and sacrifice, two qualities associated with Jesus Christ, who is referred to as the “Lamb of God” in the New Testament. Sicilians prepare a traditional Easter celebration with the help of a little lamb. Locally known as “agnelli pasquali” or “pecorelle di pasqua”, this sweet figurine is molded from marzipan and often filled with pistachio paste. One distinct characteristic of the Easter sweet is the…

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Święconka: the Polish Easter tradition artfully assembles symbolic foods, from bread to lamb-shaped butter.

The Polish people are very religious. Most of them are Roman Catholics. For centuries, during the 40 days before Easter (Lent) the Polish people fasted: they ate no meat, butter, eggs, cheese or desserts. On this day, the day before Easter, called Holy Saturday, Catholics still today assemble artful collections of symbolic foods for a traditional sacred ritual: the blessing of Easter baskets, locally know as Święconka. With roots dating back to the early history of Poland, it is also observed by expatriate and their descendants Poles in the U.S.,…

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The ancient pagan origins of Easter

Easter: a secular culture celebrates the spring equinox, whilst religious culture celebrates the resurrection. In religious (and obvious) terms, Easter is a holiday celebrated by millions of people around the world, with more or less curious traditions, who honor the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, described in the New Testament and occurred three days after his crucifixion at Calvary. But it is also, in different cultures, the day that children wait for the Easter bunny to arrive and a day to eat more or less delicious chocolate eggs. The…

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Some surprising things you (probably) didn’t know about Good Friday

Have you heard of the theory that it storms on Good Friday in the afternoon between 12 p.m. and 3 p.m.? The Christian belief is Christ’s crucifixion occurred on this day and, while this was happening, skies became stormy while the earth began to shake. Historians have documented this in Roman literature from that time period, and there is a belief that it has continued to storm on every Good Friday afternoon. A legend that has been carried on for generations. Some say that if it rains on Good Friday,…

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3# From the bathtub to the table: Christmas Eve Carp!

There are many ways to ensure your meal is fresh: first, you can grow it yourself, or you can buy it directly from the farm. Or you can take it home alive and let it swim in your bathtub! The latter method is a Christmas Eve carp tradition in Slovakia, Poland, and Czech Republic. For centuries, families throughout much of central Europe have relied on one simple main course for Christmas Eve dinner: the common carp, a symbol of good luck and classic meat-free meal for Christians. Strong Catholic traditions…

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2# Gata at Geghard Monastery – Armenia

We are in the rugged Upper Azat Valley in Armenia, around the entrance to the rock-carved Geghard Monastery. Here you’ll notice elderly ladies clustered around roadside stalls leading to the site, selling round Gata cakes inscribed with patterns and intricate Armenian script. The glazed pastry, made with simple ingredients, has a crusty texture that’s soft once you bite into it, and is stuffed with a sweet filling, called khoriz, made from a fluffy mixture of flour, butter, and sugar, with a consistency of baked custard. Even if styles will vary…

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The Lost Town of Newtown Jerpoint, Ireland. Santa Claus is buried here?

We are just outside the Irish town of Thomastown, in Kilkenny. According to a local legend, the remains of Father Christmas lie within the medieval grounds of what’s left of the abandoned medieval village of Newtown Jerpoint. The ruins of Saint Nicholas’ Church, which dates to sometime between the 12th and 13th centuries, still stand. Local legend has it that Saint Nicholas, the inspiration behind Santa Claus, is buried within a cracked, carved tomb in its grounds. The man buried there It’s more probably a local priest from Jerpoint Abbey,…

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