As Passover celebrations wrap up and Muslims begin preparing for the holy month of Ramadan, Christians around the world are experiencing a very different Easter this weekend, in the time of coronavirus.
The holiday, which celebrates the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, usually draws large crowds of worshippers throughout the Easter weekend.
This year, St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City will be eerily quiet, with Mass canceled due to Italy’s deadly coronavirus crisis. The pope will instead conduct Easter services via video stream from an empty St. Peter’s Basilica.
As in Italy, traditional Easter processions have been canceled in Spain and throughout Europe, as the death toll from COVID-19 continues to rise throughout the continent.
“Easter is one the most popular festivities for Catholics here in Spain. For Easter you would have large crowds here waiting to see the procession coming out of the Church. But this time, the doors of all churches in Spain will remain closed,” Madrid-based journalist Jaime Velazquez told Euronews.
In majority-Christian countries around the world, many families, religious or not, take the opportunity to gather together over a long weekend, but coronavirus has put an end to that this year. Authorities are instead strongly discouraging non-essential travel and reminding people to respect social distancing practices.
Yet, as with all other aspects of life, people are still finding ways to mark Easter in the time of coronavirus.
Family camping trips or Easter feasts are being replaced with video conferences. Churches large and small are live streaming or pre-recording Mass so devotees can receive the word safely, in their own homes.
Chocolate rabbits are immune to COVID-19
One Easter tradition that even a global pandemic cannot stop is that of the Easter Bunny. Rabbits, feted for their fertility, are associated with Easter as a symbol of new life. In many countries, children are told that the Easter Bunny goes from house to house to deliver chocolate Easter eggs, another symbol of rebirth.
On April 6, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reassured the nation’s children that the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy would still be able to visit despite the Pacific nation’s COVID-19 lockdown.
Video credit: Radio New Zealand
A fake letter, purportedly issued by South African authorities and offering the Easter Bunny a quarantine “egg-semption,” has been making the rounds on social media. Sources revealed the letter as a hoax, but it brought a smile to many who were left feeling disappointed that they will not be able to enjoy quality time with their families this Easter.
— Hlengiwe Nhlabathi-Mokota (@Hlengi) April 8, 2020
Meanwhile in the United Kingdom, chocolate makers who had to close their doors three weeks ago due to COVID-19 containment measures are reporting above-average Easter egg sales, thanks to online orders.
“As it turns out, we’ve sold more Easter eggs than last year,” said Angus Thirlwell, head of high-end UK chocolate retailer Hotel Chocolat.
“Demand is four times higher than average – and we have received approximately one million visitors to our site this week,” Thirlwell added.
Sales of Easter confectioneries in the UK are down by 17%, US market researchers IRI report. There is still time for those figures to improve as supermarkets scramble to meet the unprecedented demand for online orders and home delivery.
Special COVID-19 Easter confectioneries, such as bunnies sporting face masks, have also brought a smile to those downtrodden by the spectre of the coronavirus pandemic.