Today (March 27) is the holiest of days in the Roman Catholic faith, Easter Sunday.
Cirillo remembers the days when she was a youngster in her native Molfetta in Italy, when Easter was a month-long festive occasion, complete with religious processions and beautiful, flower-based tributes to Jesus Christ. According to the Bible, Christ was crucified on Good Friday and resurrected on Easter.
"I always remember Easter being a big holiday in Molfetta," Cirillo recalled last week. "When we moved here when I was 15 years old and came to Hoboken, there really wasn't anything like it."
About 25 years ago, Cirillo went to visit a friend during the Easter holidays and noticed that her friend put together an altar shrine that was very similar to those found in Molfetta.
"It gave me an idea to do the same thing in my home," Cirillo said. "It was a way to bring the traditions of Molfetta to my home here."
So Cirillo started to collect miniature replicas of the religious statues that grace Italy during the Easter season. In churches such as Purgatorio and Santo Stefano in Molfetta, there are majestic statues that symbolize the Passion of Christ, during his crucifixion and resurrection.
Cirillo was able to collect 12 replicas of those statues, created by Molfetese artist Manuele Mastropasqua - another Italian with a symbolic name at the most holy of seasons.
"He does a beautiful job in creating the statues," Cirillo said. "When I saw them in Molfetta, I had to have them."
Cirillo purchased the array of statues and had them shipped back home to Weehawken from Molfetta.
"I wanted to create an altar in my home like they have in the churches in Molfetta," Cirillo said.
Cirillo also started to grow fresh plants, like palms and olive branches, directly from Italy. She also grows grass from seedlings in small bowls, filled with cotton at the bottom. The grass is to symbolize the palms that Jesus passed through in his final days.
Throughout the Easter season, Cirillo also collects spring flowers, like lilies and tulips, that add to her majestic creation.
The end result is a beautiful and symbolic tribute to her faith and her heritage. With all the flowers and statues, the solarium in the Cirillo family home is transformed into a shrine, one that Pasqua Cirillo creates every Easter for many to enjoy.
Cirillo figures that about 100 members of her Weehawken neighborhood come to her home during the Easter season and pay homage to her altar.
"I just keep adding more stuff each year," Cirillo said. "It grows every year. I'm carrying on the tradition that I learned about in Molfetta. I have a lot of people in the neighborhood who want to come in and see it. I have a priest come in and bless the statues each year."
Highlight on Easter
On Easter Sunday, Cirillo adds the final statue, the one that portrays the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It earns a place of prominence on the altar, right in the middle of all the others.
Cirillo didn't want to speculate how much time she spends on her splendorous display, but she does take her time.
"I spend a little time in doing it," Cirillo said. "I have to have patience. When you have patience, you can do anything."
She keeps the altar intact for a while.
"Until the flowers start to die," she said. "It could be as long as a month. I take the time to do it, so I want people to come and visit it. Every time someone comes, they bring someone else."
Needless to say, it's an impressive output by a woman with a peaceful name that is so perfect for the season.
"I'm pretty proud of it," Pasqua Cirillo said. "It makes me happy to do it."