Easter Celebrations in Southern Illinois

Easter is quickly approaching. There are many celebrations planned in Southern Illinois. These range from special worship services on Resurrection Day to specialty Easter Egg Hunts.

One of the sure signs that Easter was coming as a little kid was that the candy isle in Tresslar’s at Salem filled with beautiful Easter candies and baskets. We may have had palm leaves at church for Palm Sunday to represent Jesus arriving in Jerusalem. We had Easter parties in elementary school, and our class Room Mothers always treated us well. (Perhaps I’m biased, but Selmaville School District had some of the best.)

As I got older, I became more aware of Lent, and the practice of giving up something to symbolize Jesus’ sacrifice. If you drive through Southern Illinois, or much of the United States during the 40 days before Easter, you might notice restaurants advertising fish on Fridays for those not eating other meat. Eggs may be on sale (and possibly sold out) during the week before Easter along with various types of food safe dye and likely vinegar. The smell of vinegar to this day reminds me of dying Easter eggs as a kid. We often had the egg dye kits with the little color tablets that dissolved in vinegar…

Some places will be closed on Good Friday, the day representing the crucifixion of Jesus and his death at Calvary. Even more places will be closed Easter Sunday. I had always assumed it was this way everywhere until I visited my grad school roommate and her family in Costa Rica. Many people there have vacation during Semana Santa (Holy week.) On Good Friday, towns reenact Jesus carrying the cross with a parade and people portraying various characters. It is a beautiful and sobering experience. Not only are many things closed on Good Friday, some do not even drive that day. While we tend to close things on Easter Sunday in the United States to allow people time off to celebrate with family, many things reopen on Sunday there. This is because Ressurection Sunday is the day to rejoice again. Closing on Good Friday and reopening on Easter for some symbolizes a period of mourning followed by rejoicing in celebration of Christ’s Resurrection.

I can remember hearing about people gathering for Sunrise Services at Bald Knob Cross in Alto Pass for as long as I’ve been on this earth. My parents used to talk about how our postal carrier was one of the many people who helped in the initial building of the cross. We made trips to visit it many times. Although the little road leading to the cross was a bit scary, the view from the hill was gorgeous.

I’ve heard that the Easter morning services are beautiful–and sometimes a bit chilly up there. This year, there is even a concert planned at the cross the night before Easter.

It seems Good Friday 2019 will be a little cooler than some. In Southern Illinois, Easter weather can be pretty much anything. I can remember an Easter as a child visiting my aunt in the hospital at Flora. It was so hot that day that some of our candy in the car started melting. In a more recent year, my kids hunted Easter eggs with light snow in the air.

Although this is by far not an exhaustive list of Easter events in Southern Illinois, a few highlights are listed below. Links to events in Southern Illinois are listed in the Events section of this website as well as the ASOSI app.


4/20/19 Worship at the Crosshttps://www.facebook.com/events/1311521015664614/?ti=as

4/21/19 83rd Annual Easter Sunrise Service https://www.facebook.com/events/1311521015664614/?ti=as


4/21/19 #EasteratCornerstoneSI https://www.facebook.com/304723258405/posts/10156511171898406/


4/20/19 Adult Easter Egg Hunt at Starview Vineyardshttps://www.facebook.com/events/243137456640250/?ti=as


4/20/19 Easter Egg Hunt at Love & Truth Churchhttps://www.facebook.com/events/382060802585678/?ti=as


4/21/19 Easter: Egg Hunt, BBQ,iPad & Xbox Giveaway, Three Bounce Houses at Sunfield Baptist Churchhttps://www.facebook.com/events/288297261865558/?ti=as


4/20/19 Easter Eggstravganza


4/20/19 Johnston City Easter Egg Hunthttps://www.facebook.com/events/2085667121524160/?ti=as


4/19/19 Breakfast with the Easter Bunny at The Vault Café on the Squarehttps://www.facebook.com/events/407081753462594/?ti=as

4/19/19-4/21/19 #EasteratCornerstoneSIhttps://www.facebook.com/304723258405/posts/10156511171898406/

4/20/19 Easter Fun with Franklin County 4-H at Black Diamond Harley Davidsonhttps://www.facebook.com/events/699596973789077/?ti=as

4/20/19 Easter Glow Egg Skate at Emery Brothers Skating Rinkhttps://www.facebook.com/events/2592037817479789/?ti=as

4/20/19 Easter Egg Hunt at Whiteash Free Willl Baptist Churchhttps://www.facebook.com/events/263642884579527/?ti=as


4/20/19 West Frankfort Easter Egg Hunt https://www.facebook.com/events/200723847536342/?ti=as


Blue Light Sammies?

Part of growing up in Salem in a time before a SuperCenter in nearly every town meant trips to Centralia and Carbondale K-Mart Stores were a bigger deal. One of my favorite things about them as a kid were those shaved ham sandwiches and ICEE’s. Watching adults scramble from opposite ends of the store to chase Blue Light Specials was an added bonus. It was a pretty clever strategy to get things to sell quickly that people might otherwise not even have wanted. Perhaps that exposure to bizarre human behavior planted an early seed toward my psychology degree…

Regardless, the sandwiches were good. I think they sold some sort of deli subs too, but my family got the shaved ham sandwiches. I’m not sure exactly what year they phased out the deli and started experimenting with pizza, but I was not happy about it.

So, it is with nostalgia for a simpler time in life that I call my little shaved ham and lettuce sandwiches Blue Light Sammies. I’m pretty sure “sammie” was not an actual word then, but then neither were “texting,” “EVOO,” and most social media terms.

My biggest worry was probably getting back to Salem in time for a skating party at Keele Roller Rink or whether or not one of the goats would have her kids that night. The important news (to my pre-teen brain) was which songs would be in the Casey Kasem’s Top 40.


A Slice of Southern Illinois is extremely honored and grateful to have been voted Runner Up in The Southern Illinoisan’s Reader’s Choice Awards Best Local Website Category for 2018.

We appreciate the support of our local readers as well as those throughout the world. It is exciting and humbling to know that people in 24 different countries were reading the blog last calendar year.

Last Minute Dip

Are you searching for a tasty dip or appetizer for last minute company or a get together? This dip is only three ingredients and literally can be made in seconds. All you need is a softened brock of cream cheese or Neufchâtel cheese, a packet of Sazón, and some basil pesto.


1 block of cream cheese or Neufchâtel cheese

1 packet of Sazón (found in the Latin foods isle)

1/4 cup of basil pesto


Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl. Adjust to taste by using more or less pesto. Serve with crackers or veggies.

Ropa Vieja: The Tonti Tica Version


1 can diced tomatoes with chiles

1.lb or more marinated thin sliced breakfast steak (canola oil, worchestshire, salt, pepper)–add the marinade

A diced red pepper

An onion, halved and thinly sliced

2 minced garlic cloves

Cadlo de pollo (or powdered chicken boullion) approx 1 tablespoon or a cube

1 Sazón packet

1 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon Cumin

1 teaspoon Paprika

1/4 teaspoon Chipotle powder

Enough water to cover all but an inch or two of the contents.


Load all ingredients into a slow cooker. Cook on low 6-8 hours or high 3-4 hours. Once done, break the meat apart into pieces with a fork. Serve over rice or potatoes.

Corn & Salad Dressing

One of the go-to condiments in our house is a really quick corn dressing–mayo, Southern Illinois honey, and Sazón– to spread on corn of the cob. Sometimes I also sprinkle either parmesan or a cheese like feta or cotija onto it once it is on the cob.

When I couldn’t decide what to put on my chef salad for lunch one day, it hit me. I could easily use the corn dressing on my salad. I added the juice of a lime to thin it a bit, and that was it.

I love it when I can have homeade things all set to go that pull double duty. I’ve been using the homeade salsa fresca in my salad for other meals as well. My lettuce was already washed, chopped, and ready to go in a bowl in the fridge. The longest it took me to do anything was tear some thinly slice ham and turkey into pieces. That’s only because I’m still dealing with the chemo-induced neuropathy. Otherwise, it was a pretty quick and tasty chef salad.

Here is the basic recipe:


1 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup honey

1 packet of Sazón


Mix all ingredients together. Adjust the thickness by adding more mayonnaise or honey.


Add the juice or zest of a lime for variation.

My Mom’s Christmas Tray

I have a confession to make. As a child I never understood why so many people hated fruitcake, or even why it was called “cake.” You see, my Mom’s fruitcake was more like candy. She got the recipe from a fancy restaurant somewhere, and it was pretty much pecans and candied fruit.

Every year, growing up in Tonti, our family Christmas tradition was that my parents would make the fruitcake and chocolate fudge. We had to make sure to save grocery bags (they were paper…) as the recipe specified that the fruitcake be baked on brown paper bags. My mom had a golden tray for serving the fruitcake as well as homemade fudge, and eventually, my dad’s snickerdoodles. She kept a supply of these treats in the freezer to pull out for company through the Christmas season. My mom also made wonderful Swedish tea rings.

I recently found my Mom’s golden tray again, and I can’t explain how happy I was to be reunited with it. This tray triggered lots of warm, family memories.

After Thanksgiving, my family would decorate for Christmas. My mom had decorations for the entire two-story house. I tried to hang onto ones with sentimental meaning. Unfortunately, the historical May 8th Derecho of Southern Illinois destroyed some. She used to make a oragami-style poinsettia and a geometric figure ornaments that were amazing. Some house decorations were framed greeting cards–others things people had made. We had a Holiday Closet. The guest bedroom had a big, old-fashioned closet (our home had been a boarding house in the 1800’s) where seasonal decorations and home-canned goods were stored.

Christmas Cards that our family received went into a painted wooden card holder that was the same kind my parents had bought for people as Christmas gifts the first year they were married. Believe it or not, their Anniversary was Christmas Eve. At the time, both were teaching, and that was when they could be off work. My brother and I had Christmas stockings that my Mom’s cousin made for us. Since we did not have a fireplace, and the wood burning stove would not have been a safe spot for them, they always hung on the handles of the pie safe in the dining room.

My dad took care of the outdoor decorations, and I loved to help. We would wrap red plastic ribbon around the white porch posts to resemble peppermint sticks–something I still prefer to do… The old school mutli-color large bulb stands of lights went on the porch and around the living room picture window. A plastic textured Rudolph, purchased from 4-H club fundraiser, was hung on the porch.

Eventually, we added the lighted nativity scene. My mom and I somehow managed to get this home from a trip to Olney. We hadn’t thought about it not fitting in the Granada. So, we had to take everything out of the box to squeeze the plastic figures into the car… I was able to hang onto it and use it several years. Things went downhill when Baby Jesus and Mary wouldn’t light up anymore. I was afraid people would think I was being disrespectful or protesting if only Joseph was illuminated…

Not only did we have a few lights, our family loved to visit light displays. Pretty much every year, we went to Ingraham’s display near Olney and Candy Cane Lane in West Frankfort. We often visited the light display in the Olney Park as well. When I was 7, I had Chicken Pox on Christmas. That was the year I remember visiting Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville.

Candy Cane Lane, West Frankfort

Shopping malls used to be a destination as much to see the Christmas decor as to shop. Every year, there used to be sparkly Christmas trees on the roof of the Centralia strip mall. Carbondale, Effingham, and Fairview Heights all had malls that were nicely decorated. My brother and I sometimes saw Santa Claus at a store, but we also used to go to Xenia when he came to town.

We visited lots of family at Christmastime. I think probably every Christmas Eve I can remember was at my aunt and uncle’s home in Goreville and eventually Marion. We usually visited with my Salem family on Christmas sometime after we had done the Christmas morning thing at home. I have many fond memories of these times. We ate wonderful food and often played board games or just joked around with cousins, aunts, and uncles. It may not have been on Christmas Day, but we also made the rounds to see family in Centralia, Cisne, and Kinmundy.

My kids have been fortunate to spend some Christmases playing with cousins when they were younger. Unfortunately, as people grow older and busier, we tend to lose some of that connection. I pray that you and your family are able to create and hold onto fond Christmas memories too.