Celebrating behind a screen is the new norm for quarantine


The spring season is for celebrating life and triumph, and a few holidays have been known to bring the folks of the world together, such as Easter and Passover. With the ongoing quarantine, people aren’t allowed to gather for large feasts or reunions, at least not traditionally, but nothing says human (or internet) connection quite like seeing the faces of your friends and family over a computer screen. 

As a Jewish person, I’ll admit that I’ve participated in an egg hunt or two in my prime (now, I suppose, toilet paper and cleaning supplies might be more beneficial for the Easter Bunny to drop than little chocolate eggs … wherever those are supposed to come from). Although I had fantasized about how a virtual Easter egg hunt might have happened –– parents take screenshots of movie scenes and tell their children to find the hidden “Easter eggs” within them –– I was a little disappointed to hear that most people just hid eggs around their houses, if they even celebrated the holiday at all. “How anticlimactic,” I thought. Think of the potential for all the quarantine holiday fun! 

As for my family, we almost made a bigger deal about celebrating Passover. The holiday is one of many that celebrate the times people have tried to kill Jewish people (spoiler: We lived). One of the first jokes of our Seder –– a traditional meal where we eat specific foods and drink at specific times to recount the story of Moses, the Pharaoh and the ten plagues –– was that the coronavirus was the eleventh plague. My non-religious parents, I’m sure, also prayed that their firstborn and only child wouldn’t be taken by the Angel of Death. 

My family is also notoriously bad at preparing for things, so we didn’t try to download Zoom until the Seder had already started (the rest of our unit lives in New York and Florida). My mother couldn’t find the app on her computer, so we settled for our phones; both of my parents pulled up the conversation on their phones, which caused immense feedback. Then, we had network connections, and the phones kept falling over, and our Haggadahs (booklets to guide the service and meal) weren’t synchronized with the rest of the family’s.

My grandparents didn’t have a phone camera, and a few of my cousins wore face masks, despite sitting with the only people they’ve come into contact with since the isolation began. When we tried to sing the songs, the voices weren’t synchronized, and people whispered in the background while trying to keep up with the actual reading of the Haggadah. When it came time to hide the Afikomen –– a piece of matzah that the children get to find for money –– my grandfather mentioned signing us IOU’s. 

As for the meal itself, we bought what we could find. Frozen brisket, grainy gefilte fish and a horseradish dressing cemented the feast as “not our finest,” but we did what we could. Some of my aunts couldn’t even find gefilte fish. “How sacrilegious,” I thought, even though I hadn’t actually participated in the religious side of things since I was bat mitzvahed … which is unfortunately ironic if you know anything about Judaism. Even surviving on unleavened bread was difficult, as most of our quarantine food consists of carbs in one way or another (it can last longer); after the Seder, my dad immediately started talking about eating bread again –– we can only be “religious” for so long. 

Still, despite the awkwardness of it all, it was nice to connect with our family who lives on the other side of the country. We might even do a Zoom conference for the other holidays, now that we know we can. Even if my section of the family isn’t religious, we still believe in celebrating the culture and traditions of our ancestors. 

While I wondered about what some of my peers did for Easter, and I remained suspicious of in-person services commencing despite government warnings, I realized that the actions don’t matter as much as the people. “How hopeful,” I thought. And with other spring holidays approaching, such as Mother’s Day and Ramadan, I do hope more people find ways to connect while keeping their distance. 

Though the juxtaposition isn’t lost on me that so many holidays about surviving are occurring during what feels like the apocalypse, let them remind us that humanity can beat the odds. The plagues all ended someday.