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Friday, 27 March 2015

Entering the Holiest Week of The Year

As a child, growing up in pre-Vatican II, pre-Novus Ordo Catholic culture, this coming week was clearly special. Even in the home, things began to be "different".

Of course, we had all fasted and abstained during Lent-even those under age-a good habit which should be done in all Catholic families.

But, beginning the Saturday before Palm Sunday, new and exciting preparations for Holy Week and Easter began.

First of all, we went to confession on the Saturday before Palm Sunday, but then we went as a family once a month.

Second, mother and one grandmother took us to the clothing stores for new Easter outfits, to wear for the first time on Easter day and keep for Sundays. This was a yearly event-buying new Easter clothes, when was an old custom in the family. I would be given a new hat, new dress, new spring coat, new socks with little lace at the top, new shoes and so on. My brothers would get a new shirt, new trousers, and a new jacket. As children grow, they need new clothes and this was the time for the spring buy.

Third, cooking would begin for Easter Sunday. Breads and cookies would be baked and set aside. Later in Holy Week, more food would be prepared and saved for the Pasch. Holy Saturday, kept in low key, almost silent observance, would be the day we colored eggs, but I get ahead of myself.

My mother's great gift, among many, was cake decorating and the baking of cakes "from scratch". She still does this, at 87 and last week she told me on the phone that she made a coffee cake for Dad.

Fourth, we would clean the house from top to bottom. Lent was coming to an end, and the winter clothes were packed, (except for a few in case of a late snowstorm), curtains and rugs washed, windows cleaned, and so on. Easter day would find a house clean and bright.

Fifth, the garden would be put in order. March is the time for pruning rose bushes, especially before the cold weather broke, and we did that. Leaves were cleaned away. Lilies appeared in the house on the dining room and kitchen tables. but only on Holy Saturday.

Sixth, Palm Sunday saw special visits to the grandmothers and the talk of more Easter food prep.
(For me, no more perogies!!!!!!!!!)

As the week progressed, the house fell into a quiet mode of preparation so that all could attend the Triduum. Simple foods for dinner meant that Mom could go as well. When I was much older, many of us in our thirties would get together for a great meal on Holy Thursday, more solemn than Easter, but a gathering of friends to celebrate Holy Thursday before the Triduum began. We would not have a feast such as on Easter, but it was a symbol of the gathering of the apostles in the Upper Room with Christ, and then we would go to Holy Thursday Mass together.

Seventh, when I grew up, Catholic schools let out on Wednesday afternoon and we had Thursday, Friday, and Easter Monday off. I am not sure what the school systems do now. But, this meant we could help Mom get the house ready and be in a proper attitude for the Triduum.

Eighth, Good Friday was a serious day. Mother made us go to our rooms before we went to Church and be quiet. We could not play music, but were encourage to pray or sit and think of the Passion. Even as a young child, I was encouraged to do this We never, never shopped on Good Friday.

Ninth, Saturday was also a quiet day, preparing the Easter dinner with the dishes we could do ahead of time. When I was married, our dinner was, of course, lamb, with Greek dishes, as I love to cook.
Our typical Easter meal was lamb, spanakopita, dolmathes, baklava, some amazing lemon muffins I would make which were a family favorite, and  blueberry cheese cake for desert or a bunny cake.

In my family, we had special wines set aside for different feast days or holidays. For example, Gewurztraminer is and was always our Thanksgiving wine at dinner, port and burgundy for Christmas, along with whiskey for Dad, and for Easter, a Spatlese, Auslese, and Eiswien for desert.

Tenth, visiting the grandmothers was an absolute on Easter Sunday, if one did not come for dinner, which she usually did with one uncle, who lived in the same city. (My family tends to spread out across the entire USA). She would bring something for us all as well, little gifts, usually religious. We would look for our Easter baskets before Mass, (our family went to two Masses after the babies grew up, as Mom and Dad were in the choir), which were hidden around the house in rather obvious places. If we found someone elses, we were not allowed to share the secret.

Eleventh, we attended all the Triduum, especially after the Easter changes of Pope Pius XII.

I have more memories, but these are shared to encourage families to start seeing this week coming up as different, solemn, special.