Remember When Easter Time
It came when Spring was near and you were awaiting the greening of grass and peeps of crocus and forsythia blooming, that made you believe Easter was coming too (unless it was at the end of March). However, before Easter came there was Lent. Lent was a four letter word that meant you had to give something up that you really liked, and would have to give it up for 40 days and nights. That seemed like an unimaginable length of time for any kid back then.
Lent also meant no chocolate milk, pretzels, or chips for recess. It also meant going to Mass, Communion and Confession more often. There was also a lot of Penance going on around that time. It seems like it was everywhere you went or any place you looked. You were however, safe if you still a kid because at least you wouldn’t have to fast. That was a word I equated with starvation and death. All adults had to fast and you were to lose weight during Lent if you were fasting. If you gave up sweets, baked goods and fasted you could look like a scarecrow on Easter Sunday morning.
It also seemed like you couldn’t do any fun things during Lent like go to the movies, dances, or socials. There were also no dances, weddings, or Christenings during Lent. These activities and events were banned and banning these things during Lent, made it easier for you to give them up. I guess the church works in strange ways too. But boy did you miss them during the lull.
As the days of Lent grew shorter, our anticipation for the Easter Holiday grew higher. We would start by shopping for our new outfits and clothes to wear. Families started their weekly trips to Robert Hall (on Lake Shore Blvd), then to the shoe and department stores downtown and before you knew it we were on our way to looking pretty spiffy. We had all our shopping done and everything in lay away accounts in a matter of weeks. By Palm Sunday, everything would be paid for and ours to wear and enjoy on Easter morning. It was a good thing the Church didn’t ban shopping.
Holy Week was a solemn week. You spent a great deal of that week in church attending special services and events. Palm Sunday started the week with the Easter services. Remember all those ornate flowers and weaving designs made from the palms? The Sisters used to weave a special one for our Monsignor who would carry it during the processions. Next came Holy Thursday (Eucharistic Mass followed by the stripping of the altar), Good Friday (Stations and Adoration of the Cross), Holy Saturday (Blessing of the Food) and then the finale, Easter Sunday (High Mass with a Procession).
No we can’t go another word unless we mention the Polish Foods of Easter Sunday! This was a feast that would surely last a week in our house. The kielbasa, ham, pierogies, the lamb pound cake with cocoanut icing, (this was the centerpiece of our dining room table) and the lamb of butter with cloves for his eyes and mouth, was a tradition I never forgot. We feasted all day and enjoyed company from our family, neighbors and friends. We sure made up for all the fasting and doing without over the past 40 days without any hesitation.
The day after Easter Sunday was “Dingus Day” which was also known as” Wet Easter Monday”! Since we were off from school it was one of our favorite childhood activities. We boys brought every balloon and squirt gun available within a 5-mile radius. It was a time to spray and squirt every girl who walked the streets in the neighborhood. It was our time to get noticed and get attention from girls (especially the ones we secretly admired). However, on Tuesday the tables were reversed and the girls got to spray and squirt the boys. After all “all is fair in love and war”. This was a fun way to celebrate the end of Lent and our Polish customs.