Area celebrates Easter

More than a dozen children gathered Sunday around the Rev. Anne Cohen at First Congregational Church-United Church of Christ for a quick lesson about the Easter egg.

As Christians who believe Jesus Christ emerged from a tomb resurrected three days after being crucified, the egg too symbolizes the emergence of new life.

It was a story of particular significance at a time when households throughout the region grapple with the worst recession in decades. In what is typically the most jubilant Christian holiday, congregants across the city Sunday came away with messages of hope that they would emerge from the financial hardships stronger and better.

“Two of my friends lost their job this year, and I keep praying to keep mine,” Lois Parker said after celebrating Mass at Holy Family Church. “I just keep turning to God.”

Half a world away, Pope Benedict XVI addressed the masses Sunday from Saint Peter’s Square in Vatican City, telling people that during this time “of financial turmoil, of old and new forms of poverty, of growing fears over the future . . . it is urgent to rediscover grounds for hope."

Church leaders across Glendale echoed that sentiment, striving to cheer up their congregations through messages of hope and transformation.

As Cohen dismissed the congregations from the front of the sanctuary, she seized on their inherent symbolism before they could leave.

“Thank you for coming, and for being symbols of new life for all of us,” she said.

Downtown, at the First United Methodist Church, the message of transformation and perseverance had also taken root.

“I kept thinking of the phoenix rising from the ashes sort of thing,” Peter Bailey said as he and his girlfriend left the church.

He said he goes to church only a few times a year, but “that doesn’t mean I haven’t been praying more often lately,” he said.

Of course, Easter wasn’t all church sermons Sunday. It was also a time for those other annual rites — brunches, egg hunts and picnics.

Crowds of people in their Sunday best packed into restaurants and invaded parks throughout the city, where talk of economic woes and political strife took a back seat to more cheerful topics. At Verdugo Park, egg hunts could at one point be seen taking place in every corner of the green.

“They better find all of it. I spent like $50 on candy alone,” Lucie Maldonado said as a half-dozen children darted from one bush to another at the park.

Despite the splurge, consumers as a whole were expected to spend less on candy, flowers and other items this Easter holiday because of the economic downturn, according to a forecast from the National Retail Federation.

The federation’s poll, released last month, found consumers planned to spend about 14% less this year, or an average of $116.59.

But not Maldonado.

“It’s Easter. You can’t skimp on the candy or the kids will revolt,” she said.

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