Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday in our family was marked by religion, traditions, and food and lots of it. As a child I remember my mother and father going to downtown (Providence) and they would shop for Easter cloths. The Outlet Company was the store to get it all. At that time there were no malls, no shopping centers and not as many choices of stores as there are now. In fact there were fewer cars, so the city was really the only place you would shop. You would drive to downtown Providence, or take the bus into the city. We had stores such as the Outlet Company, Peerless, Gladdings Department Store, Cherry & Web, Kennedy's and lets not forget Shepards, where if you split up during shopping, we would all meet up again under the Shepards clock.
The Outlet sold cloths for men, women and children, from everyday cloths to our Sunday best. My mother would pick and the prettiest dresses, patent leather shoes and matching purse for me as well as white socks or leggings, and my Easter bonnet. Everything matched perfectly! Then during this visit to the Outlet, no Easter would be complete without a visit to the Easter Bunny and Pictures taken with my favorite bunny.
Once the Easter outfits were purchased, then it was time to think about food for the two holidays. Our family got together for both Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. Palm Sunday in Italian is known as (Domenica delle Palme) translated Sunday of the Palm. Easter not only marked the arrival of Spring, but also the many traditions and sacred aspects of Palm Sunday and Easter also known as 'La Pasqua' in Italian. Most Cities and towns in Italy mark the Holy Season with their own traditions in regards to food and religious customs during Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, these customs made there way to into cities and towns across America, and Federal Hill in Providence, Rhode Island was no different.
On Palm Sunday we would dress up in Sunday best and go to Church as a family, there the Palm was blessed and given out to it's parishoners during Sunday Mass. At the end of Mass many would try to get more palm so that we would have enough to share with family and friends. The rest of the palm, would be used to make woven palm crosses. I remember sitting with family members as they took these long straight palms and wove them into beautiful crosses of all sizes. These crosses would be hung in our homes and cars until the following Palm Sunday when they would be replaced with a new ones. The weaving of the palms was not only a tradition in our home, but an art by those that knew how to weave them. The remaining Palm held by the churches were reserved for burning and the ashes used for Ash Wednesday the following year. Many areas throughout the world use olive branches instead of Palm, Italy included.
Easter Mass is celebrated to mark the resurrection of Jesus, after his crucifixion and is marked by many traditions observed throughout the country and the world. The Easter dinner is a feast of special dishes and delicacies. In Italy the most important dish is lamb, eggs are used in soups and in various types of Sweet Easter breads, and Pannetone is given as gifts to families and friends. Families also gave each other Chocolate Hollow eggs, that always contain a surprise inside them. These gifts are still given today and can be found at Italian food emporiums on Federal Hill in Providence and throughout the state and country, not to mention in towns throughout Italy.
Our family would go to various markets on Federal Hill to shop for Easter dinner ingredients, these shops would include Tonys Colonial Market, Roberti's Meat Market, Gems, and Venda. these markets held the very ingredients such as, meats, and staples to insure the perfect Easter meal. These staples were then purchased and taken home to create the very dishes that family members longed for and enjoyed year after year. This holiday brought family members from near and far to one table to enjoy these beloved family dishes.