Looking back and reminiscing about Easter times, it is remembered as a different holiday culture than it is today. Sometimes there was the arrival of a real rabbit or baby chicks. They were pampered and soon argued over who would take care of them in their backyard pens. They were never cooked and eaten – but were found new homes as they grew older.
On Easter Sunday, the ladies would don their Easter bonnets – straw hats, felt hats, big hats, lace mantillas or any head covering. Even the men & boys wore fedoras to go along with their suits and ties. The ladies dressed in pastels or navy blue dresses or suits. New spring outfits were purchased for the newness of spring and awareness of our faith. The only other time we all got new attire was for the first day of school. New outfit, new shoes – the works – along with some hand-me-downs. If you lived not far from the ocean, and the weather was warm and spring-like, jaunts were taken to the beach (also known as – the shore) to walk the boardwalk with other Easter bonnet and fedora dress-ups.
The only ones who may not have been fully dressed in newness were the youngest of the family – they wore the past-Easter outfits of their older sisters or brothers and it was not unusal for some Easter picture remembrances showing a new navy coat covering a slightly longer dress underneath – an “almost fitting” Easter dress passed down.
The parents were dressed up, too – suits, hat and ties – and don’t forget the white gloves and black patent leather shoes. Some of these were passed down through the family, too.
When we woke up that morning, we all ran to the table where there would be Easter baskets with bright green plastic grass holding treats which we were not allowed to be eaten until we came back from church.
The dressed-up family went to church as a unit. For other families – the only time they did that was attending church for Christmas.
After church, families would go home and seek out the hidden colored Easter eggs the Easter Bunny (Mom & Dad) left for us – some of which we had ‘eyed’ before we left for church. After they were all collected – Mom always knew exactly how many there would be, we had them for breakfast, along with the Italian Easter Egg Pie – my favorite.
Easter treats were were eaten after ‘dinner’ around 3:00 pm which included a ‘prima piastra’ or ‘first plate’ which was a pasta of some sort – lasagna or ravioli, artichokes, roasted lamb, a special sweet bread called “Colomba” (which means dove, and is made in the shape of a dove) and chocolate eggs, which almost always were hollow and have a special prize inside. Red wine was offered to all – even sips to the youngest. That may seem strange, but when future teen classmates made a big deal about getting wine or beer to drink. we weren’t interested – we had sampled it at home. None of us became ‘drinkers’.
Easter became a favorite holiday along with Christmas. Christmas was a vehicle for getting presents from Santa Claus and when we were older- we focused on the celebration of Jesus’ birth.
Easter was getting new clothes and Easter baskets from the Easter Bunny; when we were older, it was religiously followed as a vehicle for the love and gift of Christ’s gift of Himself to us for our sake.
Marie Coppola March 2020