Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday With My Family on the Gulf Coast

In an area that is predominantly Catholic, Good Friday is the last day of meatless Friday's and usually my grandfather, my mother, sister, brother and I had gone out and caught some fresh crabs just for this occasion. We would go out early in the morning before the sun had come up and walk out to Moses Pier in Gulfport, where we would bait our traps with chicken and drop them into the water of the Gulf. Every now and then we would pull them up to see them full of crabs. Now came the tricky part, one I was deathly afraid of; dumping the nets into the crab baskets. My grandfather had these tall woven baskets where we would dump the crabs. The crabs were mad and mean! There was always one who was the biggest and baddest that would somehow escape and put up a fight with his huge claws in the air snapping at you. I would run screaming, while my grandfather would chuckle and reach behind the crab and grab him up. I can remember one time that my grandfather was not so quick and his fingers were grabbed in those claws, which resulted in a trip to the E.R.

My brother and I would have to drive home in the bed of the truck with the loaded baskets of clicking and hissing crabs. It was our job to make sure the lids stayed on the baskets. I can assure you I made sure that none of them escaped while there was no where for me to run!

When we got them home safe and sound, mother would then get the big pots of water boiling, and in would go the crabs. A few would escape onto the kitchen floor valiantly putting up a last fight before mother caught them in her large tongs and put them into the pot and closed the lid tight.
While they were cooking, the stove would also be full of pots boiling water for the dozens of eggs to be dyed. On another burner was a large pot of okra gumbo just waiting for some of those crabs.
When the eggs were done mother would put them into a strainer on the table outside, while my grandmother and aunt were mixing up cups of vinegar and dye. My job was to lay out the towels to dry the eggs on and find the white crayons to write and draw on the eggs before dyeing.

We all would sit outside laughing and telling stories while dyeing eggs. It was one of my grandmother's favorite things about Easter, those eggs. Soon the table was full of eggs, and my aunt would shine them up with a stick of butter. We would oohh and ahhh over the bright colors.
The eggs then went into the refrigerator until Easter morning when they would be hidden outside; with some to never be found, or to be found by the poodle and eaten by her before we could get to it. She did love eggs!

Then came the business of eating the crabs! Boy, my PaPaw sure could clean a crab faster than anything! Of course we children would be reminded not to eat the lady fingers, as they were called.
 Later we would be ready for Mass and then back home for a supper of okra gumbo.

For as long as I can remember we dyed our eggs on Good Friday, my grandmother did it as a child growing up in New Orleans, and passed it on to her children, and me unto mine. Somehow it is just not Easter without dying even a few eggs on Good Friday.

As for catching my own crabs for Good Friday, that I leave up to others to do for me. However, every now and then I can be found chasing a random crab across my kitchen floor with a pair of long tongs on Good Friday.

Happy Easter!


  1. Loved reading your Easter memories. So similar to my grandmother's house, minus the crabs! We went to the market.

  2. What a delightful family story. I love the tradition of dyeing the eggs on Good Friday but would be happy to give the crabs, or any crustaceans, a miss.
    Are hot cross buns a tradition in your part of the world.
    I'm off to google now ... seeking info about "okra gumbo". That's a mystery to me. Thanks for sharing Michelle... Cheers, Catherine