Easter in the Time of COVID

Blessed food for Easter 2021

The pandemic started in the middle of Lent in 2020 and there was not really much to celebrate at Easter in 2020. I was especially disappointed not to get any palm on Palm Sunday. The church had announced there would be blessed palm left out on a table in the church parking lot but in the end I think fear of contamination prohibited even that.

This year, after more than twelve months of pandemic, the situation is only slightly better. Both Anne and I now have our double jabs of vaccine and felt liberated enough on Palm Sunday to attend Sunday Mass in person for the first time since COVID struck. So at least there was palm on Palm Sunday this year, but there is still lots of worry about the virus. One of my first cousins in New Jersey has only just been released from the hospital after a scarey bout with COVID and only today I learned that one of my high school/college buddies has tested positive along with his wife. So this nightmare is not over yet.

This morning we brought a basket of colored eggs to be blessed at the local Catholic church. In my youth a priest from the Polish church in Jersey City actually used to come to my grandparents’ house to bless the food for Easter. My grandmother had it all laid out on the dining room table, not only eggs but also kielbasy (often homemade), ham, cheese, honey, salt, bread and sweet grape wine. There must have been other dishes as well, because the whole table was full.

Many churches of Eastern European heritage still bless food on Holy Saturday, but nowadays I think most people bring their food to church to be blessed rather than the priest coming to the house. Where we live in western Illinois, no churches do this. If we wanted our food blessed we would have to drive 60 miles to a church in Peoria, but when my daughter moved to Salem, Virginia, and we visited her for Easter in 2019 I was pleasantly surprised that ALL the Catholic chuches in this area have ceremonies for blessing food for Easter.

We spent Easter 2020 at home in Illinois but this year we are back in Virginia. I was somewhat afraid that there wouldn’t be any food blessing again this year, but things have improved enough to hold the ceremony, but with an interesting twist. Instead of blessing the food in church, it was drive-by, like going to Mcdonald’s for a burger. So we sat in the car while a friendly deacon (not the priest) read a prayer and blessed the colored eggs, pink rock salt and fresh parsley which we brought in our basket. This made for a memorable food blessing, but one which I sincerely hope will not have to be drive-by again next year or in any year in the future.

Happy Easter!