Christianity commemorates her belief of the resurrection – that is, ‘rising from the dead’ – Jesus Christ, three days after His crucifixion on Good Friday. The changing date of the festival is an annual reminder of the antiquity of the religion and goes back to a time when events were commemorated by the phases of the moon. It was established that Easter falls on the first Sunday after the full moon following the short equinox of the northern hemisphere. While the central message of Easter remains constant, the COVID-19 protocols may temper some of its observations reviewed below.
In the Caribbean, the pre-Lenten Carnival is a nonverbal prelude to the solemnity of Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. But in its worldwide spread, the festival has acquired unique expressions in almost every country in which Christianity is practiced. In Rome where the Christian religion took early roots under the leadership of Peter, a direct disciple of Jesus, Holy Week events in the Eternal City include a ceremony in which the Pope washes the feet of a dozen men in a service of remembrance Christ’s gesture of humility to his apostles. This gesture is being imitated by the local Catholic Bishop in Guyana.
One of the strangest ‘innovations’ in commemorating the Easter commemoration of Jesus’ sacrifice is found in the Philippines. Filipinos engage in bloody rituals where half-naked punters whip their backs with bamboo blades and sticks. Many Filipino Catholics perform religious penance during the week leading up to Easter as a form of worship and supplication. These rituals are believed to cleanse the sins of the devotees, cure disease, and even desire. Devotees walk barefoot in swollen heat, stopping every few hundred yards at temporary altars while local residents recite texts recounting the suffering of Jesus Christ. The Catholic Church in the Philippines has tried to distance itself from the tradition, calling it “non-Christian”, but in vain.
Oftentimes, the customs seem to have no connection with the basic message of the festival, but have become so traditional that without them, Easter would not be native to the natives. These are the ‘secular’ aspects of Easter. Decorated Easter eggs are quite common in western European countries and those countries such as the United States where their descendants form the dominant group. They also have ‘egg roll’ games. Interestingly, even though we are a British colony, we do not seem to have picked up the Easter egg tradition – as Barbados and Jamaica did. Eggs are only used for eating here! In Colombia, the turtle egg omelettes, iguana soup, and fried capybara are the traditional Easter dishes.
The hot cross bun, which has a revered history – even predates European Christianity, is a showdown and a favorite of peoples of all religions during the Easter season. In the British Caribbean, stretching from Guyana to Bermuda, we’ve also picked up a flying kite in the weeks before Easter Sunday – building to a climax on Easter Monday, which is always a public holiday. For Guyanese, outside the Christian faith, Easter is firmly identified with kite flying. Some say that tradition began to show Christ’s ascension to heaven, but there is no conclusive evidence to verify this.
One interesting belief that has spread to our local customs in Guyana is that someone should not work on Good Friday. It is anticipated that ignoring this addiction would lead to accident or other misconduct. Regata Bartica is fast becoming a locally known “Guyanese” Easter event. After our imitation of the Trinidad Carnival before Lent, we might consider adopting the T&T Easter tradition of “Beating the Bobolee”.
The Bobolee is a statue of Judas Iscariot made of old rags and then left out to be beaten by passers-by as a symbolic punishment for Judas’s betrayal of Christ. Interestingly, the Bobolees have recently been made to resemble local politicians. The beats are now made more enthusiastic.
Happy Easter, Guyana.

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