Easter Festivities During the Pandemic: Social and Cultural Aspects

  • Žilvytis Šaknys
Keywords: holiday, Easter, pandemic, traditions, holiday cuisine


In this paper, I pursued the goal to reveal the attitude of the Lithuanians living in their home country and in neighbouring ones towards holidays celebrated under the conditions of a radical lifestyle change. The study is based on the questionnaires completed by 48 respondents during two weeks after Easter 2020 that was celebrated under the quarantine restrictions. To achieve this goal and compare Easter celebrations in 2019 and 2020, I set up the following objectives: (1) to examine the concept of the holiday from an emic point of view, (2) to examine the changes in the festivity venue and its attendants, (3) to reveal the attitude of the respondents towards religious rituals broadcast online, (4) to analyse the change in Easter ethnic cuisine, (5) to reveal the changes in the celebration of the second day of Easter, and (6) to summarise the attitude of the informants towards Easter 2020 as a holiday. The paper concentrates only on two days of the holiday leaving out a broader examination of the Easter period. Based on Victor Turner’s theoretical legacy, this study is important in assessing a holiday both as a religious and communal phenomenon, assuming that holiday rituals can have religious and secular forms and perceiving a holiday as a way for people to break out of the social routine. When defining a holiday, almost all the respondents emphasised the social character of the festivity to be its indispensable element and outlined communication with friends and relatives as promoting a special mood and feelings for the celebrants. The motive of the religious aspect of the holiday was ranked second by fewer than a half of the respondents. Comparing Easter festivities of 2019 and 2020, it was revealed that the lockdown forced one-fifth of the respondents to celebrate alone. Most of the respondents had to celebrate Easter in a much narrower circle than the previous year. Children could not return to their birthplaces and see their parents. The traditional festive mass in church was replaced by live broadcasts on TV, radio, and internet portals. We also witnessed the “shortening” of the holiday. The year before the pandemic, only one-seventh of the respondents did not celebrate the second day of Easter, while during the pandemic, more than a half of the respondents had to give up these festivities. However, the study into the Easter cuisine delivered an impressive result. Although the number of people attending Easter celebrations together dropped, the number of Easter dishes did not change; the respondents explained it as a family tradition or simply as a tradition. Thus, the tradition of Easter cuisine remained the most stable in the quarantine year. Festive dishes were made even in those cases when the respondents admitted to a negative mood of the holiday or called it an ordinary day. Most of the respondents admitted that Easter 2020 was a holiday to them. However, it was different than before. More than two-thirds of the respondents missed live socialising with their family members, relatives, and friends, whereas religious rituals were missed only by one-fifth of the respondents. This points to an intensive secularisation process combined with the will to maintain family traditions and, if necessary, to revive them; also, to the lasting importance of communality in the modern society. For most of the respondents, online communication could not replace live socialising during the festivities. On the other hand, approaching the holiday as a way for people to break out of the social routine, we saw that even despite celebrating Easter in their ordinary daily environment and in the circle of people they saw every day for a shorter time than usual, most of the respondents managed to get out of the daily routine and create a festive mood.