When is Easter and how will it be different this year amid coronavirus?

Have you wondered where the Easter Bunny comes from? And of all creatures, why a rabbit? USA TODAY

When is Easter and how will it be different this year amid coronavirus?

Celebrated around the world, Easter is one of the most important holidays in the Christian religion. The springtime holiday celebrates the belief that Christ resurrected from the dead. 

But this year, Easter celebrations will likely look a lot different as more than 1.5 billion people worldwide have been asked to stay home amid the spread of coronavirus. On Thursday, the U.S. surpassed China and Italy as the nation with the most confirmed cases of COVID-19. 

President Donald Trump said earlier this week that he hopes to lift coronavirus restrictions by Easter because it would be a "beautiful time." But Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the coronavirus task force and the country's leading expert on infectious diseases, said the Easter deadline was "flexible" and needs to be evaluated on a day-to-day basis. 

Here is a look at some of Easter's cherished traditions and how they may change because of the coronavirus pandemic.

What is Easter?

The biblical story of Easter says that three days after Jesus was murdered, he arose, and women who checked on his tomb Easter morning found it empty. Easter also marks the end of Holy Week, the last week of Lent. 

When is Easter?

This year, Easter is April 12. Easter falls on a different Sunday each year, sometime between March 22 and April 25. Easter is held on the first Sunday after the Paschal moon or the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox. 

Easter changes because it is tied to the Jewish calendar. In the Bible, Jesus was resurrected on the first Sunday after the Jewish festival of Passover, which also changes each year. 

How is Easter celebrated?

Over Easter weekend, churches hold special worship services, communities host Easter egg hunts and many children wake up to Easter baskets full of sweets or toys.

Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, and Good Friday worship lead up to Easter church services.

Many families also decorate eggs, a tradition which may have origins in pagan rituals celebrating the spring season dating back to at least the 13th century, according to the History channel. Those dyed, hardboiled eggs, or ones filled with candy, are often hidden for children to find, as part of a game that may have been hatched in 16th century Germany by church reformer Martin Luther, according to CBS. 

Egg hunts and egg rolls, which began around the Capitol building in the 1870s, are among the most popular Easter activities for children. 

Many children also pose for photos with the Easter bunny — another symbol that may have come from pagan rites of spring — who brings baskets full treats. Popular candies associated with Easter include Peeps, chocolate bunnies and candy eggs like those made by Cadbury. 

How will Easter be different this year?

First lady Melania Trump canceled the White House Easter Egg Roll this year "out of an abundance of caution" amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

Coronavirus is also forcing churches to embrace new ways of worshiping. To adhere to social distancing guidelines, many churches are rapidly shifting or expanding services online in time for Easter.

Catholic archdioceses in major cities including Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, New Orleans and Portland have closed churches with some encouraging priests to livestream Mass.

With most of its 30,000 churches shutting down on Easter, the Methodist church is also turning online to fill the void. For Easter, the national Episcopal church organization is looking for a church in New York City from which to livestream the Sunday service.

The Easter bunny may also need to get creative this year (and keep its social distance), as treats may not as readily available. Amazon said it will "temporarily prioritize" shipments of popular items such as medical supplies or household staples through April 5 and temporarily closed its Prime Pantry service due to demand.

Grocery stores may still be stocked with holiday favorites for those who are able to make the trip. Just Born, the candy company that makes Peeps, has had to shut down its Pennsylvania factories, but said all of the chick- and bunny-shaped candy has been produced and shipped to retailers for the Easter season. 

Finding eggs to dye could be more difficult and expensive this year. Egg prices have skyrocketed due to coronavirus panic buying and "offerings are very limited and insufficient to meet the current level of need," according to the Department of Agriculture.

Contributing: Jolie Lee, USA TODAY Network

Source: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/03/27/easter-2020-how-holiday-egg-hunts-church-change-amid-coronavirus/2914415001/

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