Insights from the dashboard: Creative solutions in times of COVID-19

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Insights from the dashboard:
Creative solutions in times of COVID-19

In the past three months, the topics of traditions and COVID-19 were key subjects on the EARS dashboard. In this article, we will show you how our dashboard can generate new insights into the connection between these two subjects.

Over the three-month period between December 1st, 2020 and March 1st, 2021, the EARS dashboard gathered a total sample of 1246 articles. 588 of them were on the topics of ‘COVID-19’ and ‘tradition’. 110 of these considered the intersection between COVID-19 and tradition.

Thus, 18.7% of the articles overlapped. Across these 110 articles, two key themes were identified as significant in relation to this overlap. The first is how religious communities have found creative ways to celebrate restricted rituals and religious services. The second theme is theimpact of COVID-19 on faithful and their religious behaviour. We will focus on the first theme in this article.

Because of the spreading of the pandemic, services and religious public rituals were suspended almost all over Europe. It emerged from the dashboard that many churches and religious institutions across the continent developed creative and interesting solutions in order to cope with the restrictions.

Interactive websites in the Netherlands
In the east of the Netherlands, for instance, churches announced they would perform the Christmas Eve service with a live stream. Moreover, the Dutch Bishops Conference made a website where faithful can find downloads, tips, and tricks to help celebrate Christmas at home.[1]

‘Drive-in’ mass in Belgium
In the meantime, in the city of Arlon, Belgium, the parish of Saint-Martin found a creative solution to offer the communion to the faithful. They organised a ‘drive-in’ mass that took place in a parking lot, where up to 200 vehicles could be parked. Faithful sat in their cars with their windows closed and listened to the mass from the car radio. They were offered the communion through the car window.[2]

Dublin Interfaith Forum
In addition, in December 2020, in Dublin, Ireland, a physical event called ‘Rewind 2020’ was organised by the Dublin City Interfaith Forum. The event consisted of a number of interfaith gatherings to celebrate religious festivals that were missed in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The first event involved celebration of Rohatsu 2020, the Buddhist Day of Enlightenment. Adrian Cristea, of the Dublin City Interfaith Forum, said the event highlighted the “rich diversity” of religious practice in Ireland.[3]

Italy and a flying Saint
Also Italy found a creative solution to the pandemic restrictions. In the town of Rieti, an annual 4th December feast day procession usually takes place every year, attracting hundreds of visitors from many countries. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the procession was cancelled for 2020. Yet, firefighters from the town found a new way to celebrate the feast. They attached a statue of Saint Barbara – the patron saint of firemen and the Italian city of Rieti – to the side of the fire brigade helicopter and flew it over the town.[4]

Ireland and ‘takeaway ashes’
Finally, in February 2021 – because of the closure of churches due to the pandemic – an Irish priest made ‘takeaway ashes’ available for his parishioners to use at home on Ash Wednesday. The priest said it was important to find ways to celebrate traditions even in the hard times that COVID-19 has brought.[5]

Tradition, crisis, and change
Thus, we have seen that a key theme resulting from the interconnection between COVID-19 and tradition on the dashboard is expressed by alternative solutions to cope with the restrictions caused by the pandemic. In this sense, traditions changed in order to adapt to the new situation and to stay relevant in this difficult time. Churches and other religious institutions have demonstrated elasticity and creativity towards old traditions. This phenomenon is very interesting in light of the fact that religious institutions tend to be more conservative and less open to change.[6]

Learn more
The EARS dashboard allows you to gain insight into a large number of topics, including religion and COVID-19. It is a free tool that enables you to make similar connections as described above, and to find out about new relationships between interesting subjects across Europe. Please visit the dashboard to learn more.

Ghila Amati

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[1] Voor het eerst sinds mensenheugenis sneuvelt in veel kerken de kerstnachtmis

[2] Messe de Noël : Arlon opte pour un “drive-in” – Le site de l’Eglise Catholique en Belgique

[3] Faith groups celebrate missed festivals at Mansion House in Dublin

[4] Saint’s statue taken on flight over Italian town after procession ban

[5] Coronavirus: Priest providing ‘takeaway ashes’ for Ash Wednesday

[6] How Can Religion Adapt to Modernity?