‘Twas the day of Easter, and all through the town/Not a human appeared going up or down. Or something like that. I know that the forerunner of my ditty is from a different holiday, but there’s certainly no one out today.
This circumstance may be unusual at Easter in the USA, where kids will be hunting Easter eggs and creating colorful confetti messes with cascarones, but in Spain the quiet and solitude today are downright weird. Typically even the humblest village would have a procession with large floats carried on poles supported by cadres of folks who train all year for this joyous duty. Onlookers in bright clothes would line the streets to pay reverent homage, celebrate the Easter story, or just enjoy the spectacle. But this year the country celebrates Easter in lockdown, and we are all attending Zoom church in our pajamas instead crowding into a sanctuary in our Sunday best. This holiday, is, in short, weird.
Now, we’re all doing our best to celebrate the miracles of resurrection and rebirth. Electronic Easter greetings abound, and several friends have posted lovely pictures of decorated eggs and beautiful flowers in their homes. Mark and I are doing our bit. He picked out “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” on his guitar this morning, and we had chocolate flavoring in our morning coffees. We’ve been to a couple of virtual services already and plan to attend the one our Austin church will do in a bit. And displayed above are the butterflies we’ve made and hung in our living room. Mark strung them up last night as I talked with a friend in the USA.
Hanging strings of butterflies is a tradition of our home church in the capitol city of Texas (a city, I might add, whose unofficial motto is “Keep Austin Weird”). All through Lent, butterfly shapes cut from colored paper are available in the pews. Congregants write prayers on them, and the butterflies go into the collection plate that’s passed during the service. Those butterflies are deposited into urns, which represent cocoons. Between Good Friday and Easter, the butterflies are strung onto cords that are then hung, criss-crossed, above the pews in the sanctuary. The colorful prayers of the people emerge and grace our worship space for several weeks. The one exception was the year some bridezilla who’d rented our sanctuary decided that our butterflies looked tacky and, disobeying strict injunctions to the contrary, cut them all down. If she thinks love on the fly is tacky, I wish her and her groom the best of luck. They’re going to need it.
No one is celebrating Easter in our sanctuary this year, but our senior pastor has urged us all to uphold our tradition and display butterflies in our home. This suggestion presented a problem for us; Mark and I don’t stock colored paper, and stores here that would are closed. We ended up raiding the paper recycling bin for colorful pasteboard. The pink butterflies are from a cereal box, the yellow ones from a three-pack of tuna, and the orange ones are from a picture of a cheese pizza on a pizza box. My personal favorite is the red one, which came from a box of baking powder. The shapes are a bit wobbly, as I cut them freehand. But never say I went to first grade for nothing!
So this holiday celebration is quite out of the ordinary. But if you think about it, Easter is weird, too. The Bible tells us that finding an empty tomb came as a surprise, first to the women and then to Peter and John. Mary also generally probably didn’t confuse Jesus with the local cemetery gardener, although given the circumstances she gets points in my book just for still being upright. We usually celebrate Easter with pomp and some degree of glitz, but at its heart, the day is just flat bizarre – in the most wonderful way possible, of course.
So Mark, the butterflies, and I are keeping Easter the Easter tradition of weirdness, along with the rest of the lockdown world. May the promise of rebirth as ushered in on the oddest day ever infuse each and every one of us. Keep Easter weird, my friends. And stay safe.