Growing up in Gray’s Ferry the celebration of the Easter season was always special. Fondly, I remember going to Saint Gabriel Church on Easter Sunday morning (in the days before Saturday evening Mass) and experiencing quite an amazement when entering the church. The fragrance of Easter flowers filled the cool air, candles were lit, and the state of the Resurrected Christ was the first point of attention.

During the Mass, it was always a great spiritual renewal to reaffirm the promises of our Catholic Baptism with a true sense of theological victory over the transgressions of Good Friday against the now Risen Lord.

Most evident was the feeling of communal joy and celebration as the residents of Saint Gabriel Parish doned their Easter outfits and used the day as an opportunity to visit friends and relatives.

Every time I sense the fragrance of any flowers associated with Easter morning, I recall great breakfasts on Easter Sunday at the home of my maternal grandparents. Plenty of eggs, bacon, coffee and baker’s treats started the day right after Mass. Of course there was quite a bit of laughter when all of my cousins, aunts and uncles started wandering in after their own participation at Mass. My grandparents’ home was always filled with people, always centered around the kitchen table, having discussions and telling stories of all shapes and sizes.

Easter Sunday always brought potted Easter flowers to my grandparents house, gifts from their sons and daughters, grandchildren and friends. They had a prominent place in the front living room, where we never sat but the plants had the place of honor on the radiator cover in front of the window. My grandmother was fond of Easter plants and she made sure they were displayed with great pride, in the middle of freshly starched curtains, newly cleaned windows and laced doilies.

The scene repeated itself all over the neighborhood, families visited, ate Easter treats, consumed the spring ham and gave plants to their grandparents and loved ones that made their way to as the focus of the front window.

Uniquely part of living in a row home (now called a townhouse) lace curtains and floral displays sometimes with a statue of Mary were always  part of the ethnic Irish enclave of Gray’s Ferry.

Easter celebrations in Gray’s Ferry were always reflective of a well rooted Irish Catholic heritage, cultural diversity among multiple ethnic groups of fellow immigrant peoples and a lesson in experiencing an extended family of relatives and cousins of the most extreme familial link.

I am glad for those experiences of having such great memories tied to my parish church, my Catholic faith and my ethnic Irish heritage. We need to rekindle those experiences and foster them with our own children and descendants…its is an experience they will always remember in their collective Kodak memories.

Hugh J.McNichol is a Catholic author and journalist writing on Catholic topics and issues. He attended Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, where he studied both philosophy and theology. He writes frequently at & . Hugh writes about his Irish Catholic upbringing and educational experiences at . He has contributed works to Catholic News Agency, Catholic Online, The Irish Catholic, Dublin, the British Broadcasting Company, London and the Philadelphia Bulletin, Catholic Exchange,, Blogger News Network & The Catholic Business Journal, & Comments are always welcome at

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