Santa Barbara’s Religious Communities Celebrate Holidays at Home

Finding Ways to Appreciate Passover and Easter While Separated from Friends and Family

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Last Wednesday evening marked the beginning of Passover, which Santa Barbara’s Jewish community usually begins with a Seder dinner in the company of family and loved ones. But this year, due to shelter-in-place orders meant to stem the spread of COVID-19 pandemic, many are celebrating without those who they hold most dear. 

“Seder dinner is usually taken at home. But a lot of people might have specific rituals, be it celebrating with certain loved ones or making certain dishes, that aren’t possible with the current situation,” said Rabbi Daniel Brenner from Congregation B’nai B’rith. “That can be difficult for people.” 

Sunday also marks the Christian celebration of Easter, in which Santa Barbara’s Christian community find themselves in a similar situation. While Calvary Chapel Santa Barbara usually hosts an Easter service at the Sunken Gardens with thousands of people, this year the service will be broadcasted on KEYT. 

The church’s Easter celebration at the Sunken Gardens has been a staple for decades, and shifting the service online is both a disappointment and an opportunity, according to Pastor Tommy Schneider. “I’m sad to not be able to see people in person this Easter, but I’m really excited for the way we’re going to be able to reach people at home this year,” said Pastor Schneider. “The message of Easter is exactly what we need in a time like this. The work that Jesus did on the cross and in the tomb brings hope and everlasting life for all who believe. Even people we haven’t seen in a long time are reaching out and connecting during this time.” 

The service will be available on Facebook, Youtube, CalvarySB.com, and KEYT at 10 a.m. 

Meanwhile, online meeting platforms like Zoom are serving as a bridge of sorts. “A lot of families are using Zoom to connect with each other, but obviously it isn’t quite the same as being together in person,” said Rabbi Brenner. “In a service earlier this week, I told people that it’s alright for their Passover to feel a little underwhelming this year.” 

But the Passover Seder, meant to commemorate the last meal the Jews took before their passage out of Egypt, has a message that seems apt for the moment: “The meal that Seder symbolizes took place before the Jews had successfully escaped from slavery. It wasn’t a celebration of success, but the anticipation of a better life,” said Brenner. “Every year during this Seder, one tradition is we go open the door, in anticipation of the coming of the Messiah. This year that feels especially meaningful. Even though we can’t leave our homes, we hold on to the hope of better days ahead.” 

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