The Easter weekend

We had a really good Easter weekend, everything considered.  It was definitely difficult at times, but the celebrations of Easter Sunday outweighed the sadder moments.  The day was a virtual gathering of our extended family over six households which were all isolating.  Usually four of those households gather physically in my house. The day was planned around our usual Easter morning church attendance and the usual lunchtime Easter feast.  

Neither of those two points in the day were usual of course, Mass happened via YouTube in our sitting room. The lunch was only for four instead of the usual thirteen. But they happened as always and were very good.  

The day was further punctuated by planned zoom conversations with everyone joining in.  The first was a coffee (ok so I was on Bucks Fizz) greeting fairly early in the day, it was lovely to see all the children early on and see their excitement and just generally to all come together on what is always a family celebration. 

The following calls got down to the serious business of egg hunting, fiercely-fought Easter themed competitions.  It was hilarious.  For me anyway.  I spent the calls quietly sipping coffee (and more Bucks Fizz) watching over-excited younger children or slightly reluctant teens on cameras and feeling lots of sympathy for their exhausted parents.

The egg hunts were brilliant.  My brother set up a proper one with each family hunting for eggs which had been hidden in places that corresponded with clues coming from hundreds of miles away – magic.  There was a very good egg hunt with the camera operated by the oldest cousins who were well able to gently guide the younger eyes to the eggs.  It must be noted that the older eyes of the grandparents got very excited at egg hunting too.  The funniest egg hunt involved younger cousins operating cameras – their parents were very brave to let their phones be used.  The camera operators moved very fast and a bit randomly, but almost all the eggs were collected as they were yelled at by family members.  I am not sure we really got to see all the eggs, but they all ended up in a bucket as intended.  Expcept for one which was rather close to a hen named Bill and the young camera operators declared themselves far too scared of Bill to retrieve the egg.

There were competitions in many different categories. The best Easter joke – most of which were of the surreal nature that young children seem to favour and which I generally find hilarious anyway.  The best bunny hopping and the most chocolatey face, both involved video and photo entries as well as live inspection of hopping abilities.  There was much egg decorating, with so much creativity on show.

At the end of the day I felt like we had really spent the day together, five zoom calls had been tiring that is for sure and hugely chaotic at times.  But a usual Easter Sunday together is tiring and chaotic, but that does not make it any less brilliant.  Looking back on the day now it really does feel like we had a great day together, good memories were made.  Chicks were born during the day in the hen-keeping household which was a lovely thing to see happen.

And there were demands for us all to regroup on the Monday morning to check in with each other again, which I am taking as confirmation that we all had a good time.  

I hope your Easter was as fun as it could be.

Anticipation

These few of days before Easter Sunday are always full of anticipation.  It’s quite active, noisy anticipation I find.  The quiet of Lent seems a way behind us already.  From Thursday evening on, we move into preparing for Easter.  The church services change hugely in feel from the familiar of the Sunday mass I am used to.  The Passion of Christ is a dramatic tale of vengeance, torture, death and despair.  The services themselves use the dramatic techniques of silence, movement, delivery of words in various voices, light and dark, set changes, the lot.  It makes it very easy to get into the story, the sadness, the feeling of a great wrong being done and most of all the sheer inevitability of the death of Christ.

I find it a personally challenging couple of days.  I now I am not supposed to complain about the strictures of Lenten fasting, but from Maundy Thursday on, I feel the pain of the fasting.  It’s the anticipation – I know on Sunday I can feast, but not until Sunday.  I long for wine and chocolate in a way I haven’t all through Lent.  I find the services both a familiar framework and a strange and disturbing intrusion on my usual routines.

But tomorrow will come and tomorrow will be joyous.  The pinnacle of the Christian faith, when the inevitability of a new dawn, of a new beginning, of being held in love comes to pass.  The strictures will end, I will be feasting on mini eggs and prosecco.  

You know where this is going, but I am struggling a bit to draw the comparison clearly to the wider feelings I am having about isolation.  I have hope that my family and I will come out of this unscathed.  In a global sense this too shall pass.  But, this Easter, I am scared.  I am scared about what this virus is going to do to hundreds of thousands around the world.  I know that behind the statistics we are already seeing are whole families grieving.  Staying at home is easy for me who has a comfortable and safe home and the resources to get food as I need it.  This is far from true for millions of others.  Living in a refugee camp, in a country with a fragile health system, in a violent home, in the middle of an armed conflict make the effects of coronavirus devastating. 

Then I remember that the disciples do not stop being scared during Easter.  In fact, they stay scared and hidden for weeks.  So I am taking comfort from the fact that fear is also a part of the Easter story.  I have hope and I have faith that that will get me through somehow.

The best of the holidays

This is my favourite of all the high days and holidays, I adore the Easter weekend.  I get some extra time off work as we close on Holy Thursday and Easter Tuesday as well as the regular bank holidays.  We usually have family visit, along with small members of the family, so the days leading up to Easter Sunday are a strange mix of noisy fun in the house and quiet, reflective services in church.  On Sunday itself the house fills even more as everyone spends the day here having Easter egg hunts (“Auntie Abbie I want 17 Easter egg hunts today” – may not have been 17, it was a lot though!), decorating Easter eggs and hanging them on the Easter tree.  Church is full of people and flowers and loud singing, it is truly delightful.  The day is long and happy and lots of wine and chocolate is consumed.  I had planned a huge family party on Monday, with a different part of the family, but although I wrote all the invitations, I did not get to send them at all.

This year will be a bit different, but it will still be joyous.  It’s a strange time for everyone, so hopefully everyone in the family is in the same sort of frame of mind to make the best of it all.  The weather is set to be beautiful for a few days at least, which makes it easier to relax.  And we are involved in the church services of the Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil service on Saturday and then Easter Sunday) in the strangest of ways.  The husband volunteered to help our priests stream all the services live, so attending mass now includes conversations with the priest beforehand as he checks the camera feed and the sound.  And last night’s mass ended with an odd conversation in our house about when the feed should be cut.  I say odd, just unusual in the old world, it will become normal in the new world I am sure.  The worship aspect of the weekend will provide a clear framework, even if it feels different, they are after all the same Easter traditions, just attended in a different way.

As for the more secular – well video conferencing is our friend.  Family will come together even if we are hundreds of miles apart.  I am plotting games and Easter egg hunts.  Games include Easter bingo, egg decorating, bunny hopping, chocolate consumption and more.  For the Easter egg hunts – think Anneka Rice’s Treasure Hunt from the eighties.  But with small children, a slightly technophobic grandma and a control freak of a party planner who will likely be through her first bottle of wine since she gave it up for Lent. Nothing can possibly go wrong can it?  There will be a lot of laughs I am sure.

Today is not that day full of joy and chaos though, it is a more quiet and sombre day, a day to reflect on the sadness of the situation.   But it is also a day of hope and preparation for happiness to come.  And I love planning a party.  However odd this weekend is, it is still my favourite holiday of the year and I know it will be a good one.

Easter reflections part 2

The pathos of Holy Week inevitably leads to the absolute joy of Easter Sunday, at the least within the church services. Taken together the services are a safe way to travel through a whole gamut of emotions and have a really happy ending.

Our Easter was certainly joyous and happy. It was a Saturday of catching up with dear family who we rarely see, cousins were reunited and took up where they left off. News was exchanged and the most delicious giant profiteroles stuffed with ice cream were eaten. Other delicious things were eaten, but the profiteroles were seriously amazing.

Easter Sunday was a joyous church occasion followed by a sumptuous Easter brunch. I am not sure I have ever cooked brunch on Easter Sunday before, but I loved it. Brunch is a great meal to be able to create a sense of abundance and it always feels like a treat.

There was of course chocolate, wine, and coffee – all of which had been fasted from by various members of the family. There was the extended family, more cousins joyfully gathering. The day had an underlying retro Wii Sports competition happening, along with Easter egg hunts, Easter egg decorating, dog walks and frisbee playing in the park. And a lot of sun cream thanks to the amazing weather.

All in all a long and joyous day of family and feasting and being very aware of all the many blessings that surround us.

Easter reflections

This is definitely my favourite holiday in the religious calendar. For a load of reasons. Last week was of course Holy Week. The quieter time of Lent culminates in a week of traditional services all with different moods and significance. Moving through the week is like a gentle and very supported guide to emotions. It is a week of guided introspection, that follows six weeks of fasting, almsgiving and prayer.

I enjoy the sense of tradition, it makes me feel very grounded and somehow safe. Many of the services are attended by much the same people, so I have a real feeling of belonging to a wider community and being part of something bigger than me.

The music is unusual, not what we hear in the rest of the year, and yet familiar in it being the music of Holy Week. The services themselves are unusual, but the same every year. It’s a delightful mix of familiarity and difference all in one week.

It is wonderful to be encouraged to be quiet, to turn inwards for a few days. There is a lot of silence in the church services, Good Friday is a day of abstinence and fasting. I abstained from my phone and laptop for the day. It definitely changed the mood of the day, making it much more deliberate and thoughtful.

After a long winter, it felt good to have a week of reflection and quiet to bring it to a proper end. The weather was very compliant, starting the week with cold and wind and warming up as the week wore on. Lent and winter ended very well indeed.

Taking it even sloooower

Sometimes stuff just does not go to plan, or at least not to the plan that was forefront in my planning brain.  Easter is full of pretty frocks, warm spring sunshine, egg hunts in the garden and lots of fizz. Right?

It’s not a weekend of mud and rain and cold.  The plan does not include the extended family being struck down one by one with a vicious lurgy.  Nor is it a weekend when one realises that having given it up for Lent, one’s tolerance for prosecco is about zero and for red wine, only marginally better.

The saving grace this weekend – my beloved resolution to go slower.  A long weekend of snuggles on sofas watching movies, naps in whatever bed we can find free, gentle dog walks instead of muddy hikes, less wine but more tea is what we are enjoying.  And, you know what, that fits right in with what I had planned overall this year. Hopefully, as I am not particularly bothered that the original plans have not come to fruition, no one else really minds either.  Well, apart from those who are poorly of course, it does indeed feel a bit rotten for them.  And I have had to postpone the traditional Wii Just Dance fest to later in the week when I am feeling more able to keep up with my niece.

My resolutions for this quarter were getting a bit less slow to be honest, this weekend is a reminder to dial it all back again.  I think I need to add a resolution to watch loads of kids’ films.  Challenge on.

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