In Sorrento and surroundings the time of the Holy Week is full of events and religious functions able to spark incomparable suggestions, such as the historical representations of the Via Crucis and the penitential processions of hooded men parading through the streets of Sorrento coast.
Even today, on Palm Sunday, in addition to the usual blessing of olive branches, sometimes decorated with coloured ribbons and small cheeses, there is an ancient tradition, a mix of sacred and profane: the blessing of sugar-coated almonds palms.
During the Lent time, these small works of art are made in almost all homes.
Small trees, branches, baskets, bouquets or single flowers: each palm reveals the joy of the spring return as well as the joy for life, through light or pastel colours.
There are not precise rules or limits to creativity: all you need are thin iron wire, a candle, a kind of sugar-coated almonds called “cannellini”, sugar-coated almonds (or chocolate), ribbons and paper flowers.
The Story of the Saracen Slave
According to popular stories, in fact, the sugar-coated almonds palms would have arrived for the first time in the Sirens Land thanks to a Saracen slave.
On Palm Sunday of 1551 Sorrento people gathered for the usual blessing. However, Turkish ships could be seen coming towards the coast on the horizon.
So, the scared people prayed to be spared from the invasion.
As a miracle, an unexpected storm hit the enemy ships: none escaped.
But a fisherman who was on the beach of Marina Grande saw the waves pushing a strange shape towards the beach: it was a Saracen girl, the only one surviving that shipwreck.
The fisherman rescued her and the young woman, as a sign of gratitude, gave him the only thing she had left: a bag with “cannellini” sugar-coated almonds inside it, already unknown at the time in Sorrento.
So, the tradition of creating the so-called sugar-coated almonds palms was born thanks to this act of peace and gratitude, as a sign of good omen.
Beyond the reliability of this story, this tradition – in addition to the many others still handed down in our land – make the atmosphere of Sorrento Peninsula, during Easter Time, particularly suggestive, giving it an extra little bit of authenticity.