Easter celebrations: Better this year than last!
TINA L. SCOTT
In stark contrast to Easter 2020, the Easter that “wasn’t” … Easter weekend 2021 came in with a balmy and more hopeful outlook. With some sunshine and temperatures in the low 70’s, the high temps made for a pleasant weekend with lots of people outdoors and families gathering for Easter.
Contrast that with Easter Sunday 2020 – April 12, 2020 – when the high temp was only 43 degrees, according to Accuweather, and most people were isolated in their homes, with churches throughout the state shut down for in-person worship, and most who wanted to “go to Easter church” having to “attend” via Facebook Live or by watching on television or YouTube or in a few rare cases, by attending a drive-in service.
Easter 2021 found more churches welcoming worshippers to in-person services, with most practicing some sort of social distancing and/or wearing masks in the sanctuary. In some churches, practices that involved shaking hands during worship have been suspended. Many churches no longer share hymnals and worship aids. And hand sanitizer is everywhere. But going to church, even with some restrictions, was better than staying at home and watching church on TV, Easter worshippers agreed,
Jeff Holt and his wife, Deb, live in the Town of Merrill and have three children: “One son in St. Francis (near Milwaukee), our daughter in Sun Prairie, and another son serving as a medevac pilot in the Middle East.” They are both teachers at Trinity Lutheran School.
“Last Easter we had the opportunity to chose between Trinity’s drive-in service at the MARC [Merrill Area Recreation Complex] or participate in an on-line service, and my wife and I chose the on-line service,” he said. “We Face-timed that day with our children and my wife’s parents as a virtual family gathering,”
He said this Easter is absolutely better than last.
“This year we attended in-person worship at Trinity on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday,” he said. “Our daughter and son-in-law, who live out of the area, joined us for those and a traditional ham dinner on Easter.”
“While masks and social distancing were required, we were able to join together as a family and as a faith community at Trinity to gather for in-person worship on what is perhaps the most important church day of the year,” Holt said. “Having one of our children here to celebrate with us, made the day extra special.”
“We still had a virtual gathering for the rest of our family,” he added, “because one of our sons is deployed in the Middle East, and a virtual option still let us celebrate and enjoy one another’s company on a holiday that is very important to us as a family.”
“The other nice thing about this year is we could enjoy time together outside with our family without having to deal with a snow storm,” he added.
LaDonna Fermanich, who belongs to the Downtown Mission Church which opened in late 2019, said last year they had church via zoom. “We met in Bankers Park all summer and returned to church as it got colder,” she said. She, for one, was glad to get back to church. In many ways, things feel like they are back to normal when she attends church. “Masks if you choose (few if any wear them anymore). Hugs every week between friends. Sitting side by side, singing. God gives us a spirit of hope, not a spirit of fear!” She said their services usually draw between 25 and 30 attendees.
She said the Downtown Mission Church had their first Easter service actually in the church with the congregation in attendance this year, in 2021. COVID had pre-empted their church’s plans for their first Easter as a congregation.
From a family standpoint she things are not yet “the same as usual.”
“We’re from a very large family and not all have that same spirit of hope,” Fermanich said. “We respect that, but it’s hard to see time slipping away from us.”
They did enjoy a small dinner with immediate family and “Thankfully the weather was beautiful!” she said.
Tiffany Braunel of Merrill recalled last Easter: “Last year I spent Easter with only my boyfriend, and we colored Easter eggs. That morning I also walked to the grocery store in the snow in order to get eggs. I was able to video chat my family and say Happy Easter.” That was pretty much the total of their Easter celebration in 2020.
“This year it was beautiful outside!” Braunel said. And most importantly, “We gathered at my grandmas house in Wausau,” she said.
“I actually went to work on Easter, so the best part was having something to look forward to after work,” Braunel said. “Because in the past year, I feel like I haven’t done anything exciting. It’s been the same boring routine every day. Last year it was super hard on me to miss Easter. Grandma’s house is definitely a tradition that I missed.”
One of the things she missed most was her grandma’s cooking, she confessed. And even though she said they didn’t do a big dinner this year, it was great! She especially loved doing things with her family members … playing cornhole with her boyfriend, her parents, and her grandparents, watching the kids hit a pinata, and watching the little ones play with squirt guns. “So much better than last year!” Braunel said.
Rebecca Primm of Merrill said, “We host a family Easter get together at our house every year. We still had it this year and last year.”
“The mood was definitely more relaxed this year,” she said. “Last year, we had some family members that refused to come – some were even very upset that we were even considering it, fearing that we would get grandma sick or worse. A few people that did come clearly couldn’t handle being there and were being overly cautious about every little thing so they wouldn’t get germs.”
“This year, all but one was able to come, and it was completely normal,” she said.
While not everyone’s Easter was completely back to normal, most people say they feel more hopeful this year than they did last, and most did enjoy more freedom to celebrate the holiday the way they wanted to in 2021.