My loneliest yet most hopeful Easter
PUBLISHED: 09:03 17 April 2020 | UPDATED: 10:27 17 April 2020
Easter in my home country Romania is a week later than the British Easter, and it’s as big a celebration as Christmas, when many relatives gather together to eat, eat and eat some more.
On the Saturday before Easter Sunday, many Romanians go to the church with their candles to “take light” - light their candles from the priest’s candle or other people’s in the church’s courtyard; they then take it home and walk it through every room of their houses. Before midnight, they sing a hymn together in the church courtyard, known as the ‘Paschal troparion’, marking Jesus Christ’s resurrection.
We paint chicken eggs and make various pastries such as cozonac (also a star at Christmas time) and pasca (a Romanian cheesecake with cottage cheese, which I would make for the upcoming Sunday should I have some flour and semolina in the house). Just like Christmas, we celebrate Easter over three days. We sit around the table, pick what we think is the strongest hard-boiled painted egg, and the person who says “Christ is risen!” gets to knock with the top of their egg the other person’s egg bottom after they reply “Indeed he is risen”. Whoever’s egg gets damaged as a result has to eat it. Some of us end up eating a few too many.
Now living in Saffron Walden, and my long-term partner being British, I also celebrate the British Easter with him, partly because I can’t pass on the chance to have an otherwise unacceptable amount of chocolate. But this Easter we couldn’t even do that – we ran out of our two chocolate eggs before Sunday as we ordered them in advance and it was the only sweet treat in the house. On Sunday, I was still unwell from coronavirus symptoms, so I spent most of the day in bed. I don’t recall ever feeling so lonely during a religious celebration.
I am very lucky to have grown up in a family that has worked very hard to ensure I don’t miss anything in my life.
My mum wanted me to learn everything there is out there - and so at the age of 15 she ensured I have a go at skiing. It wasn’t as easy as I thought without an instructor. I fell so badly that everyone around me replaced their winter adrenaline with “are you okay?”. I was then scared to ever try again - and complained when, a Christmas later, I received a ski suit from my parents. There it was, the reminder of my traumatic but funny, movie-like, pillar-hitting fall. I thought perhaps they were joking, just like when they put some oranges under the Christmas tree when I was little and filmed me whilst having a lump in my throat and pretending I was so happy to receive some fruits from Santa. What I didn’t know then is how lucky I was to have the choice to celebrate Christmas at home and the privilege to receive a present from my parents.
Most of my Christmas and Easter holidays for the past six years were spent away from them, studying for university exams. It didn’t matter much then, as the stress of the exams and my promise to them that I would do well were much heavier than the loneliness I was suppressing.
So as soon as this year arrived, I booked to spend my first Easter with my family in six years. Unfortunately, this had to be cancelled.
Because of the coronavirus, I know the right thing to do is stay away from my loved ones, some of whom are at high risk from this virus - but I can’t help but think of how quickly our lives and plans have changed. It was the first year I was going to live again, now that I am an independent working adult. I had so much more to look forward to: my best friend’s wedding, a family holiday, Christmas spent together.
Having had symptoms of the virus for four weeks now, all I wanted for Easter was to feel better - or, if I may, well. I sometimes feared for my life but knew that, as a young person, I will have to fight this on my own. It felt very lonely and scary to think that, but seeing everyone on my street clapping for the NHS, receiving a couple of encouraging messages for my work, and having a couple of complete strangers in the community pick up food for me from the supermarket whilst I was self-isolating, brought a good change in my usually hectic life: a glimpse of humanity. It was no longer me, the messenger, taking human quotes to people. It was me, the receiver of an unspoken and unwritten note that my neighbours care about me as a human without knowing who I am or what I do for a living. My parents can’t send me any presents, but frankly, the only present I want is for me to get well, for them to go through this untouched and for the world to heal as soon as possible from the physical and mental wound that Covid-19 has caused. Right now, hope is all we have, but when we come on the other side, maybe we will all be better humans, appreciating everything we take for granted, starting from our health and our loved ones, and finishing with looking after vulnerable people in society.
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