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Faith leaders reflect on 2020's challenges ahead of this year's Passover, Easter

The meaning behind the springtime celebrations remain strong, but many changes have taken place in the last year due to the pandemic.

ARIZONA, USA — This weekend marks one of the holiest weekends of the year for people in the Jewish community.  

Passover begins at sundown tonight, the beginning of an 8-day celebration.   

Tomorrow, Christians will celebrate Palm Sunday, ahead of Easter next Sunday.

The meaning behind them remains strong, but the celebrations have had to change over the past year due to the pandemic.

Last year saw a stay-at-home Passover

“Passover is all about freedom,” said Rabbi Shlomy Levertov of Chabad of Paradise Valley. He explained how much the pandemic changed the way they celebrated Passover last year. 

“It was really hard from an emotional perspective,” he said.  

The COVID-19 crisis forced everyone to stick to celebrating with their immediate family from home. But, this year, it feels different.  

“There’s a lot less stress in the world in the sense that, obviously there's still things happening all around us,” Rabbi Levertov said. “…but for the most part we’ve learned a lot in the past year.”

This year, they are celebrating Passover in a different way once again.  

“More people are vaccinated and getting out a little bit,” he said. “You see more family seders together and you also see communal seders that are done in a very safe way, outdoors, pod-style… it’s a beautiful thing to see that.”  

COVID-19 left many Easter Sunday seats empty at Valley churches last year

For Christians, this year's Easter will look much different as well.  

“Last year was one of the most difficult holy weeks I think any priest in the world has ever celebrated,” said Father Dan McBride of St. Mary's and St. Juan Diego Church. He remembers how distant Easter of 2020 feels. 

“We had 10 people in church,” he said. “We couldn’t give out palms.”  

In 2020, church services went virtual, with just about everything else, including virtual egg hunts and Easter bunny drive-by visits.

In a matter of weeks, emotions were running high as people returned to church.  

“There were literally tears coming down their faces when they actually got to go back to mass,” Father McBride said.  

He says this Easter will include a new excitement.

“We’re actually having people in church and there’s a hope because so many people are getting vaccinated,” he said.

Find the latest updates on the COVID-19 vaccines for Arizona and the United States on our 12 News YouTube Playlist here.