As we approach Easter Weekend, it is important to take a moment and think about how this holiday will be different than those in the years before it. Obviously, this is due to coronavirus, but when you think about how we will be celebrating it, there are some interesting and important conclusions to be drawn.
This Easter will share many similarities with the holidays experienced by our parents and grandparents, affected either by a system of state atheism hostile to the celebration of Christian holidays, or the literal threat of the enemy in wartime. Except this time around, the enemy is neither a Soviet autocrat nor a foreign soldier, it is a deadly pandemic. This is not by any means a direct comparison, the past situations and conflicts were of course much more severe, and the fact that they were man-made at least gave the illusion of some sort of control. However, there is no denying that for most of us born in the 90s and onwards, we have never had to experience a holiday this way.
With the nationwide quarantine being extended indefinitely in Hungary as of yesterday, this year’s Easter will be a muted affair. Citizens have been strongly advised against holding large gatherings or travelling to see their relatives. The city of Budapest will also be closing certain popular destinations, such as Margaret Island, during the weekend. For very many people, not being allowed to attend Mass will also be a difficult change. As an example, Easter is part of the holy days of obligation for Catholics, which means it is a sin not to attend. Also, many Easter traditions such as locsolkodás, where young men spray young women with water or cologne in return for pastries or spirits, obviously go against quarantine rules. However, there is also an aspect to this Easter that goes beyond simply beyond locked inside our homes.
This year, many Hungarian families will not be able to afford to celebrate, even at home. Hungary has now been in quarantine for a month, and the virus has wreaked havoc on the economy. The massive tourism sector vanished overnight, the never-ending hub of restaurants and pubs has shut down, and countless other businesses have closed. Many of these businesses will never reopen again. Recent reports show that approximately 7% of Hungarians have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. Considering that most households barely have enough money saved up for the next billing cycle, we are getting to the point where many Hungarians will be running out of funds. While the government has started relief programs for both Hungarian companies and workers, these do not entirely alleviate the situation. Some families will be cooking up extravagant traditional Hungarian dishes, while others will be left counting how much longer they can afford to feed themselves. It is easy to lock the rest of the world out when we are literally being told to stay at home, but it is important not to forget those in need.
The strain on the less fortunate in Hungary will be greater than ever, exacerbated by the difficulties that many charities are currently facing. Due to the virus, charities across the world have reported a decrease in donations, and many have had to halt operations entirely. In addition, volunteering has also been greatly affected by quarantine rules. So, for those of us that have enough, or more than what we need, let us not forget those who will be having a difficult time this Easter. If you can, donate to a charity, and if you are a young person, consider volunteering at your municipal government to help take care of the elderly. This Easter will no doubt be a difficult one, but we need to help each other out, so that we can celebrate together with all of our loved ones next year.
In the featured photo illustration: the St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican City. Photo by MTI/EPA/ANSA/Riccardo Antimiani