Giannini: Thinking of Easter Memories and Lost Loved Ones

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Past memories of Easter Sunday leave me wishing for the good old days. Growing up in an Italian-American Catholic family, Easter Sunday was an important day for my family.

In fact, the whole week before Easter Sunday was observed to observe the customs of my heritage and religion.

Going to a catholic school also had a lot to do with it. St. Bartholomew’s

Grammar school on Laurel Hill Avenue in Providence was the foundation of my Catholic education. Thinking back to Holy Week, I can remember going to confession in school on Holy Thursday and praying the “stations of the cross.” Good Friday was always a half day off school and mass was a must with a moment of silence at 3:00 PM, which was the time Jesus did in the cross.

At home that week, the food preparations would begin. During the week, my mom, grandmother and aunt would cook all the Italian favorites.

Yesteryear’s Beloved Memories

We all lived near each other, that was the way it was.  Grandma would be busy baking her famous Easter sweet bread and rice pie (Pastiere,). My Aunt Jean would be making her Italian cheese pie and Easter Ham. My mom would be making her stuffed Ricotta shells with meatballs, doughboys and ricotta pie. Fruit ambrosia also was a must with pastel marshmallows for Easter.

Our family observed Easter morning by going to church. I can still remember the smell of beautiful lilies in the church, as they adorned the altar. It was a memory that I will never forget.

We dressed all up in those days, wearing our new Easter outfits and always a straw hat. The church was packed, not a seat to be found. Some people would have to stand. After mass, we would all greet each other outside and wish each other a Happy Easter.

Our family tradition was to have an Easter brunch at my Aunt Jean’s house ( who lived behind us) with my grandparents and cousins. The menu was better than any restaurant I have ever been to.  Antipasto, Easter Ham baked with fresh pineapple, homemade gnocchi, sausage and egg frittatas, homemade sweet bread, Italian meatballs in raisin sauce, fresh Doughboys with butter and sugar, and of course all the Homemade Italian desserts.

Remembrance Of Things Past

Grandpa always had his homemade wine on the table for the adults and we kids were allowed to drink punch. What a day full of love and memories. We were all given chocolate Easter bunnies and Easter baskets which my mom placed on the kitchen table before we got up in Sunday morning.

The best thing about Easter week was that we spent our time together as a family.  Whether it be helping Grandma make bread, or mom stuff the Ricotta shells, we did it together. Our family has grown up with a history of wonderful family traditions and memories which we still practice today. That was the true meaning of Easter for me.

Gone are our beloved family members, my parents, my sister, grandparents, aunts and uncles but here are a new generation of children to be taught to preserve the past but pave the way for the future. Our hearts and love will continue to remember our loved ones through the traditions they taught us. We will honor them by preserving their memory in celebrating this Easter Sunday.

I wish you and your family a blessed Easter Sunday filled with love and happiness. May you remember your love ones and keep them in your heart  as we observe the true meaning of Easter.

Joanne Giannini
Joanne Giannini is a former State Representative from Providence. A freelance journalist, consultant and writer, she has previously written commentary for The Providence journal, GolocalProv and WPRO radio. Contact her at Pt3270@yahoo.com
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