Sunday will mark the second Easter holiday Americans will have celebrated during a pandemic. Easter is traditionally celebrated by attending church, gathering with family and friends, participating in egg hunts, giving or receiving Easter baskets, and enjoying a feast with family or community. With Easter being such a social holiday, it's logical to wonder what a socially distanced Easter may look like in a pandemic.
“Before the pandemic, Easter was a holiday for the whole community,” said Rhonda McClain, while shopping for Easter supplies in a Brandywine, Maryland Target store. “We all came together to celebrate and we can't do that anymore without being afraid of getting sick. We still have our families, but it won't be the same as before. A little less joyful.”
According to a Pew study conducted by the Pew Research Center, only four out of 10 U.S. Christians plan to attend Easter services in person this year. This increase could be attributed to the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines; vaccinated people tend to feel more secure in public spaces than unvaccinated people. Last year, most Easter services were voluntarily canceled due to the strict COVID-19 restrictions in place. This year most churches will be hosting a modified Easter services in order to accommodate social distancing guidelines.
The CDC has published ‘Safer Ways to Observe Religious Holidays’ on its official website. These holiday tips include practicing religious holiday customs at home, watching virtual religious and cultural performances and attending religious ceremonies virtually.
“Attending gatherings to observe religious and spiritual holidays increases your risk of getting and spreading COVID-19.” The CDC informs. “The safest way to observe religious and spiritual holidays this year is to gather virtually, with people who live with you, or outside and at least 6 feet apart from others.”
Usually, Easter is also a big holiday for retail chains as consumers stock up on artificial grass, peeps, easter baskets, egg-dying kits, candy and new outfits for the holiday. Surprisingly, this Easter, consumers are expected to have the highest average Easter spending in history.
This prediction comes from the National Retail Federation, which expect holiday participants to spend a collective $21.6 billion on Easter essentials. That's $3.5 billion less than what was spent in 2018, a pre-pandemic year. The NRF attributes this surge in spending to the recent stimulus boost Americans received last month.
“I don't think the pandemic has made as much of an impact this year as last year,” said Breanna Reid, a retail worker from Waldorf, Maryland. “Last year you couldn't really do anything traditional for Easter because lockdown was more restricted. Things are a lot looser than March last year so we can do more.”
As Americans continue to work together and do what they can to slow the spread of COVID-19, it seems that very slowly citizens are beginning to return to the lives they once lived. With COVID-19 vaccines being circulated and citizens returning to work and school, people may be closer to normalcy than they think.