Easter weekend arrives without restrictions — so some communities are making their own

·3 min read
Tamara Rudenko Charalambij helps to organize the first Easter market inside Ottawa’s Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral, since December 2019.   (CBC - image credit)
Tamara Rudenko Charalambij helps to organize the first Easter market inside Ottawa’s Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral, since December 2019. (CBC - image credit)

It's Ottawa's first major holiday weekend with almost no restrictions since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but several communities are still taking extra precautions.

At St. Faustina Church in Cumberland, Saturday's Easter vigil was held indoors — but Sunday's mass will take place in their parking lot, just like earlier in the pandemic.

"Well, it's definitely different. And I wouldn't say it's something that I would strive towards as the ideal," said Father Gerard Monaghan, the church's pastor.

"However, in this circumstance, it's a beautiful way where we are still able to come together."

Health authorities in several regions have urged people to take extra precautions this weekend, asking them to keep gatherings small and stay at home if they have any symptoms of COVID-19.

That's partly because, in recent days, Ottawa's coronavirus wastewater signal has been roughly three times higher than it was during the previous record-setting Omicron peak in January.

Monaghan said with their parking lot masses, people are still able to get out of their cars and socialize to some degree. St. Faustina will be hosting three such services, and Monaghan expects between 150 to 200 people for each one.

"At least [there is a] sense of coming together ... the parishioners have embraced this effort to try and meet their spiritual needs," he said.

"Everyone can feel safe and comfortable in the midst of God."

Nafi Alibert/Radio-Canada
Nafi Alibert/Radio-Canada

'Grand Iftaar' returns

Members of Ottawa's Muslim community, meanwhile, gathered to break their Ramadan fast together Saturday evening at the Saint Elias Banquet Centre for Islamic Relief Canada's annual "Grand Iftaar."

Ramadan is one of the holiest months in Islam, where Muslims worldwide fast from dawn to sunset. The iftaar is the meal following that fast.

The event returned to major cities in Canada for the first time since 2019, and in Ottawa "we sold out pretty quickly," said Reyhana Patel with Islamic Relief Canada.

"The pandemic has had an effect on everyone," Patel said. "[People haven't been] able to see family or friends. People have lost loved ones, people have been isolated for so long ... this is the time when everyone can be together again."

While Ontario dropped most pandemic restrictions in March, Patel said those who came out for Saturday's event were still asked to keep their masks on whenever they weren't eating or drinking.

Reyhana Patel
Reyhana Patel

Easter market also makes comeback

Over at Ottawa's Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral, many gathered for their first Easter market since December 2019.

"It is a time where our culture, our language, our art, our history is being aggressively attacked," said Tamara Rudenko Charalambij, referring to the war in Ukraine that broke out nearly two months ago after Russian troops invaded.

"And we find it even more important today that we continue to practice our traditions."

Rudenko Charalambij is with the Ottawa branch of the Ukrainian Women's Association of Canada, which helped organize Saturday's Easter market.

A fundraiser to support both the cathedral and initiatives to help Ukraine, the market offered a wide variety of traditional Ukrainian goods, from perogies and cabbage rolls to Ukrainian-inspired streetwear.

"Some of us have families in Ukraine," Rudenko Charalambij said. "And we are really pleased to see so much interest and so much support. The Ottawa community, Ottawa residents have been incredible in coming out and supporting this event."

Orthodox Easter will be celebrated next week.

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