A Coronavirus Easter: How Families Kept Apart Embrace Each Other

It’s safe to say Easter plans and traditions for most Americans will look fairly different this year due to the ongoing new coronavirus pandemic in the United States.

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Still, many people — including Pamela Lynn Guyer of Bel Air, Maryland — are making the best of an inevitable situation in this time of stay-at-home orders and self-quarantines. Guyer, who typically spends the night before Easter with her grandson and family, instead is planning a quiet Easter dinner at home with her husband and dogs.

That’s not to say she won’t get to enjoy a few Easter festivities with her family — she plans to watch her grandson via Facebook Messenger when he receives his Easter basket and takes part in a backyard egg hunt with his parents.

It’s not ideal, Guyer said on Facebook, but it’s what needs to be done to stay safe and to keep others safe during the pandemic.

“There’s always next year,” she said.

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The coronavirus outbreak, which has infected more than 454,300 people in the United States as of Thursday and left more than 16,260 dead, has triggered widespread cancellations of church services, community Easter egg hunts and activities, and family celebrations.

According to a recent survey by WalletHub, 70 percent of families plan to stay home and celebrate Easter, compared with 25 percent last year. Only 11 percent plan to attend church, though 56 percent said they would go if they could.

Holy Week services and Passover traditions worldwide have been affected by the outbreak, creating a religious holiday like none seen in recent years. This Sunday, religious leaders everywhere will deliver messages of Christ’s resurrection to empty pews.

Still, other churches plan to move ahead with in-person services, especially in states such Texas, where the governor declared religious gatherings “essential.” In preparation, a Houston church has installed hand-washing stations and rearranged the 1,000-person sanctuary to hold about 100 people with 6 or more feet between them, The Associated Press reported.

Luckily, those who choose not to attend an in-person service need only go as far as their TVs, smartphones and computers to find one. Some might live in a place where churches are directing worshippers to drive-in movie theaters for services that don’t require leaving their car.

Pope Francis has provided livestreams of his celebrations throughout Holy Week, and this will include his Easter Sunday service. For those who understandably don’t want to wake up quite so early, St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City will also offer a running livestream of all its Easter Sunday services.

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Many community church leaders will also livestream Easter sermons, including the Rev. Steven Paulikas of All Saints Episcopal Church in Brooklyn, who will do so from an empty church.

“It’s started me thinking about the empty tomb,” Paulikas told The Associated Press, referring to the biblical account of Christ’s resurrection after his crucifixion.

“That emptiness was actually the first symbol of this new life,” he added.

Staying home this Easter means communities and families alike will need to get creative if they still want to mark the holiday in a special way. Jenn Demith of Joliet, Illinois, is anticipating the start of new traditions with her kids — among those, trying her hand at making a bunny cake.

On the subject of cake, Nicole Grojean of Enfield, Connecticut, reminisced about how her brother usually makes a lamb cake for Easter. This year, however, Grojean is throwing her oven mitt in the ring and turning it into a friendly competition.

“Family members have to vote on their favorite via videoconference,” Grojean said.

At Asbury United Methodist Church in Prairie Village, Kansas, family ministries director Heather Jackson is organizing an Easter egg hunt that embraces social distancing, AP reported. Parents and children are creating colorful images of Easter eggs to display in windows or on garage doors, and the “hunt” will entail families driving around in their cars, or strolling on foot, trying to spot as many eggs as possible.

Guyer is among those participating in a similar Easter egg hunt. So is Lauren Littlebear Williams.

“Families could do their own scavenger hunt from the safety of their car or walking by,” said the Concord, New Hampshire, resident. “I think it (is) a great idea and will put one in my window even if my town doesn’t do it. It will bring a smile to someone.”

But what about time spent with extended family? Perhaps one of the most meaningful components to celebrating the Easter holiday is the opportunity to gather with loved ones around a table for food and fellowship.

Thankfully, the internet could be this Easter’s saving grace. Not only are religious services moving online, but many families will gather using video conferencing or messaging tools such as Facebook Messenger, Zoom, Skype or Google Hangouts.

While some are looking forward to having a digital dinner with family or coffee hour with friends, Bárbara Delci of Nashua, New Hampshire, will be taking advantage of online tools at her disposal to make sure her 7-month-old daughter has a first Easter her family will never forget.

“We got her an Easter basket and cute outfit and will be doing an egg hunt in our backyard,” Delci said, adding, “Our family will be joining us on Zoom so we can share the moment together.”

Some still plan to venture out while still social distancing. Neighborhoods are planning Easter parades, and grandparents will be hiding Easter baskets in front yards to watch from their cars as their grandchildren discover them.

Jessica Snajder of Stratford, Connecticut, doesn’t plan to miss her annual tradition of Easter service on the beach followed by breakfast.

“This year we will stream the service while in our car and do takeout breakfast after,” Snajder said.

Some will only venture as far as their backyard. For Crystal Snyder of Lansdale, Pennsylvania, that’s far enough for her to capture the spirit of the holiday with her family.

“(We) will be going outside at sunrise and lifting our hands to the heavens, thanking God for all that we have and praying for all who are battling this virus and for all who are on the front lines,” Snyder said.