Holy Week is my favorite time of year. The kids surprised me by saying that it was theirs too.
First of all, I need to get something off my chest. I hate blessed palms! They look like swords, they splinter into tiny fragments, and they’re BLESSED! Whose idea was it to give my kids a fragile toy/weapon IN MASS that cannot be thrown in the trash? (Insert emoji of a frazzled mom with hair standing on end–brandishing a blessed palm.)
This Holy Week we were able to attend a new version of Tenebrae, which might be my favorite liturgy, at the Shrine. This one was not arranged around the seven sayings from the Cross, but it was lovely. It’s not everywhere that you can find Tenebrae!
Holy Thursday is everyone’s favorite meal of the year. It’s part Seder Meal, to remind us of what Jesus and the Apostles were doing at the Last Supper–lamb, unleavened bread, bitter herbs, charoseth (an apple dish meant to recall the mud used to make bricks in Egypt). But because St. Thomas Aquinas warns that it’s a mortal sin to perform the rituals of the Jews as though the Messiah hadn’t come . . . we throw in a little bacon-wrapped asparagus. We call them Spargel-speck-schpears, in honor of our Austrian roots. The kids get to drink “wine” (cranberry juice) out of real wine glasses and we use the best china. We serve baklava for dessert, in honor of our Waldstein and Thompson roots. We figure the apostles might have picked up a sweet like that at the market. We try to invite a special guest to join us each year.
Then on Good Friday, we fast on Hot Cross Buns. Even though the Hot Cross Buns taste delicious, by the end of the day, you are longing for something else–anything else. I always dreaded Good Friday and couldn’t wait for it to end. The Hot Cross Buns for me represent, “This is a special and beautiful day.” However, John and I are no longer able to metabolize a day of straight carbs, so we fast on boiled eggs as well.
Before the Trehorae, the three hours from 12-3 when Christ hung on the Cross, we tried to do some cleaning and basic home repair. This need had become urgent the day before, when the littlest boys (the “Muppets”) had discovered a huge box of toys that we had never unpacked after the move. They didn’t realize that there were three such boxes–until a more literate brother came along and read the labels on all three “Toys” boxes. On Holy Thursday our house gradually became strewn with old toys and costumes that had been peacefully resting inside a sealed box since we left Wyoming. Mags and I did a purge that resulted in a black garbage bag of stuff to go to St. Vincent de Paul.
Thomas came up with an ingenious device to actually pick up Legos.
Rrrrrrrroooop. Back to the Triduum. We went to Good Friday services. I had been telling the little boys about how the priests lay down on their faces at the beginning of the service, but I didn’t know how they would see it with the crowd. Well, we were coming in late to the church, so we had front row seats . . .
We always make Lamb Cakes for Easter. When the girls were little, we didn’t give them candy in their Easter baskets, just a Lamb Cake (it wasn’t for them to eat alone, but to share with the family, and it amounted to much less sugar). In recent years we’ve made one banana chocolate-chip lamb with whipped cream frosting, and one carrot cake lamb with cream cheese frosting. As you can see, this year we ended up with one good lamb and one evil one. I guess the evil one is actually a goat.
Marietta was singing with the choir at all Triduum liturgies. John took the big four with him to the Easter vigil. Here they are at MIDNIGHT when they returned. They all said it was exquisitely beautiful. Even Thomas: “Exquisitely.” (Or words to that effect.)
I didn’t see the Easter Vigil Mass, but I know what I think is exquisitely beautiful!
All week–and really all Lent–we had been wondering what would make our Easter special in Green Bay.
When I asked the kids what they wanted to do for our first Easter here, the answers invariably involved importing the Susankas. Mags asked for Susankas in place of an Easter basket. No one could imagine an Easter tradition to top the massive Easter brunch at the Susankas’, to which all our friends came and contributed delectable treats, and the massive, two-tiered Easter egg hunt that the Tonkowiches organized in the Susankas’ backyard, with big kids hiding eggs for little kids, and Tonk hiding eggs for big kids. I was at a loss as to anything that would compare.
One big difference between Green Bay and anywhere else we’ve ever lived is that most people who are in Green Bay are from Green Bay–for generations. Their grandparents or great-grandparents came over on one of the boats of Dutch or Belgian immigrants in the 1850s. They have a huge extended family here to spend their holidays with. In Lander (and Gaming) nearly all our friends, like us, had come to the place as strangers. We had to be each other’s extended family.
At the Good Friday I was suddenly struck by the thought that we should invite a Venezuelan family for Easter Sunday. They were political refugees fleeing the communist dictatorship that has gained ascendancy in Venezuela. They came to Green Bay just about the time that we did. John had met the husband but the rest of us did not know them. They have daughters ages 12, 9, and 5.
Their acceptance of the invitation threw our Easter preparations into high gear. We would need to make Easter baskets for their girls, and organize a real egg hunt according to what the Susankas and Tonks had taught us. We had to introduce them to American Easter customs. John and I went out to buy candy (Walmart was sold out of jelly beans??) and presents to pad the Easter baskets. We had a reason to prepare a luxuriant Easter spread, comparable to the Susankas’ but on a smaller, two-family scale.
Well, our guests became great friends of ours that Easter Sunday.
Our kids and theirs all hit it off wonderfully, especially Mags and Barbara. I’m not typing the parents’ names because they are in the immigration system, where things can be quite delicate and capricious. In the old country they were architects and the children of physicians, but here they are cheerfully surviving on janitorial and gardening work. We found that we could talk to them for hours–and we did! They turned our Easter Sunday into a celebration, complete with egg hunt:
And the celebration continues, as we have gotten together with them several times a week since Easter day.