Easter Remembrances from Newark

by Jule Spohn


I was born in 1941 and grew up in Newark during the 1940's and 1950's till I left for the Marine Corps in June of 1960. Easter was always a special time in my house. My mother was very religious. From the time I could walk, and then especially by the time I made my First Holy Communion around 7 years old, I went to the 7am Mass and Communion with my mother at St. Antoninus EVERY DAY of my life until I went into the Marine Corps in 1960. It began on Holy Thursday - the Thursday before Easter Sunday. Back then it was the the custom to visit three churches on that day. The Priest would wash the feet of several "selected" people from the Parish as a reminder of Christ washing the feet of his disciples. The altar would be stripped bare of all linens, flowers, candles, etc. All of the statues would be covered in purple shrouds. The Blessed Sacrament in the "Ciborium" would be removed from the Tabernacle on the main altar and be placed on one of the side altars and the Tabernacle would be left open. The Priest carrying the communion host's would be dressed in a special vestment called a "Cope" over his shoulders and covering the Ciborium and would walk under a very beautiful canopy carrying the Ciborium to the side altar. None of the regular bells would be rung but the altar boys would use wooden clappers.

We would visit St. Antoninus, the Monastery of Saint Dominic on 13th Ave between 9th and 10th Streets, and then walk down to St. Rocco's (Italian Parish) on 14th Avenue and Hunterdon Street. On Good Friday there would be no Masses. Again today, as I had done for most of my life, I went to St. Antoninus at noon for the Stations of the Cross and then went back again at 3pm for the Veneration of the Cross. We then went to Mass on Saturday morning and we were not supposed to eat a lot of food on Saturday. Late on Saturday night, almost before a midnight mass, the Priest would burn all of the left over Palm from Palm Sunday and this would be saved until the following year when it would be used as ashes on Ash Wednesday. The Priest had a special way of lighting this fire - no matches or cigarette lighters were used. From this fire all of the people in the darkened church would light their candles and then the church would come alive with the "New Light" of the Risen Christ. In many of the Russian and Greek Orthodox churches it was supposed to bring good luck for the rest of the year if the people could make it back to their homes with this candle not having been blown out along the way.

By this time I had already gotten my "once a year" new suit which was either a same type jacket and pants or a jacket and two pairs of pants - new shoes, new socks, new shirt, etc. Always went downtown to Howard's, Bonds, Larkey's, Wallach's, Browning's, or some of the other men's clothing stores to buy them.

On Saturday night I would always color the eggs. Made about two dozen of them. Wrote the names of my parents, aunts, uncles, friends, and neighbors in our building on them with crayon and then dip them into the various glasses which were filled with colored dye and then put the little tattoo's on them. Come Sunday morning I would always go to Mass with my Mother and Father. We'd then stop at the German baker on South Orange Ave and 10th Street and bring home some of the best coffee cakes, buns (cheese and crumb), and "Hot Cross Buns" that I have ever eaten. When we got home I'd make the rounds of the neighbors apt's and give them their eggs. In the afternoon my mother would cook a huge meal and my aunts and uncles would come over for Easter dinner.

Yep, Easter was always a special day for me.


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