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.