Manitobans cheated by an Easter during a pandemic finding ways to celebrate at a distance

By | April 10, 2020

Without fail, Betty Reimer has been serving peppernut buns every Easter weekend — not even the COVID-19 pandemic can stop her. 

But this year, Reimer will serve the treat, a mix between hot cross buns and paska topped with sprinkles, to her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren by doorstep instead of the tabletop of her Steinbach, Man., home. 

“I will be baking them peppernut buns as usual and delivering them to the families, just setting them on their doorstep and leaving — keeping that distance,” said Reimer, one of the authors of Mennonite Girls Can Cook.

The Reimers are heeding the message from public health officials to stay home and forgo big get-togethers to help disrupt the spread of the contagious coronavirus. 

Reimer and her husband John will stay inside. On Sunday morning, they’ll watch their church’s live-streamed Easter service from the comfort of their living room, and take part in communion — eating a small piece of bread and drinking a sip of juice.

Message still resonates

This Easter will be abnormal, but the meaning of the holiday will still resonate, Reimer said.

“It’s very important, because we’re celebrating Jesus, that he came to this world, that he died and he rose again,” he said. “That’s the most important thing.”

Pastor Gavin Hall already knows he’ll miss hearing his congregation on Sunday.

Charleswood Community Church is preparing videos of their worship team. (Submitted/Gavin Hall)

Like a chorus, they would have proclaimed as one, “He has risen, indeed,” to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

“It’s one of those great, great moments — it’s the high point of the Christian calendar,” said Hall, lead pastor at Charleswood Community Church in Winnipeg, of commemorating Easter.

“To have it taken away in terms of the communal gathering, you feel a little cheated or just a little anticlimactic and so we’re trying to figure out ways around that.”

Hall will still preach on Sunday morning. His service will be available online.

Instead of their usual potluck breakfast on Good Friday, he’ll share a video devotional from his home, while his wife, Becky, the worship director at the church, provides the music.

While his church community is scattered from the pews, Hall said the message of the gospel is maybe hitting closer to home.

Everyone faces a trying time during this pandemic, but the church has known challenges before, from famines to wars and resettlements, Hall said.

Church has ‘been here before’

“We read ourselves a little bit more into the story and think, ‘OK, we, the church — we’ve been here before, we’ve been in times of distress and confusion,” Hall said.

The taste of chocolate, however, will bring some normalcy to families celebrating Easter. 

“I think people want Easter chocolate because it’s what’s familiar this weekend, and I do think that chocolate is comfort food,” said Constance Menzies, owner of Constance Popp Chocolates in Winnipeg.

Sales, she said, will probably be half of her total last Easter, even as the amount of phone orders soars.

Paul Lorteau is preparing a peanut butter and jam treat at Constance Popp Chocolates. Online orders have grown significantly in preparation for Easter weekend. (Submitted/Constance Menzies)

“We only have one [phone] line and boy, we’ve been finding this is a problem,” said Menzies, who has dedicated one employee to handling the phone and her friends to help with deliveries.

And she hasn’t forgotten about the Easter Bunny.

Every year, Menzies surprises three customers with a chocolate bunny delivered to their front door. This year, she’s taking suggestions for who’s deserving on her Instagram page.

People have been nominating health-care workers on the front lines of COVID-19, people suffering health issues and children worried the Easter Bunny cannot visit because of physical distancing orders.

“We’re getting some really heartbreaking stories of why people deserve this.”

Sariviea Ellsworth wanted to give the kids of Thompson, Man., something to celebrate.

“The kids are obviously upset. They’re not getting their regular Easter. They’re not at school doing all the fun activities,” she said.

Sariviea Ellsworth is organizing an Easter photo scavenger hunt in Thompson to give kids something to do this weekend. (Submitted/Sariviea Ellsworth)

She created a photo scavenger hunt to encourage families to drive around the city after the the annual Thompson Easter Egg hunt was sidelined. 

One stop will be the driveway of Ellsworth’s home, where each child can pick up a small plastic egg with Easter treats  thoroughly cleaned, of course. 

“It’s just a way to get people off their sofa and out, going around town,” she said.

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