Church services, family meals, egg hunts, chocolates are all put into a halt as social distancing measures have restricted families gathering to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. The notorious Coronavirus pandemic has affected more than 1.4 million people and has claimed the lives of 82,000 as of April 8.
Most countries have taken strict social distancing measures to combat the spread of the deadly virus. Hong Kong government has ordered most public and entertainment venues such as cinemas, fitness centers to shut down for two weeks. Measures were later escalated in banning bars, karaoke lounges and nightclubs for a further two weeks. The government has since banned gathering of more than 4 people in public, failure to comply would result in HK$25,000 fine and six months in prison.
This year, Easter falls on Sunday, April 12. Also known as Easter Sunday or Good Friday. Typically celebrated in the faith of Christianity, it has become a public holiday in many countries and regions including Hong Kong, the United States, and the United Kingdom. However, due to social distancing measures in place, families are searching for alternatives to celebrate the holiday this year.
Agnes Payos, 51, a Catholic member who celebrated the four-day tradition at Visitation Parish Church in Tung Chung alongside her family and friends last year will celebrate differently this time.
“On Easter, we usually go to evening ‘Stations of the cross’ sessions (A series of pictures of Jesus depicting his crucifixion) on Thursday and Friday evening and go to Sunday mass as a family. It’s followed up by a large gathering meal afterward,” Agnes recalled.
After many worldwide clusters of confirmed COVID-19 cases have been chased back to churches, such as the super spreader in Shincheonji Church of Jesus (viewed suspiciously as a cult) in South Korea, fears escalated among religious sectors because of possible crowds.
The Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong suspended its public mass service in February as the coronavirus started gaining momentum worldwide and then resorted to online Sunday Masses. Some other Christian churches followed including the International Christian Assembly in North Point and Kingdom Family Church in Kwun Tong.
Online mass for Palm Sunday by Reverend Gregoire Vignola. Source: hkdavc Youtube
When talking about the coming changes in response to the coronavirus, Agnes replied “Of course I want the real thing, because you can only truly feel the meaningfulness of Holy Week. Like during the Seven Churches Visitation and participating in actual stations of the cross – that’s when you can feel the passion of Christ. But I have my online masses so it’s alright.”
Others appear a bit indifferent towards the upcoming festival. Simone Hoogendorn, a 19-year-old University student, neither Catholic nor Christian said “I’m not religious so I don’t place much emphasis on this upcoming holiday but I do understand the frustrations of not being able to celebrate as a family. I am disappointed that I won’t be able to see the Easter decorations this year.”