Easter traditions take a year off as Greater Morristown rides out the pandemic,

Nora Parker, outside Kings in Morristown, April 11, 2020. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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By Olivia Yepez

Erin Heller, 22, and her family will be breaking with tradition this Easter.

“Instead of ham, we’ll be having steak,” said the Morristown resident. They’ll be foregoing their typical corn fritters, too. “I feel fortunate to be able to have any food, to be honest.”

With strict social distancing guidelines and product shortages at most grocery stores because of the coronavirus pandemic, people across Greater Morristown and beyond have been preparing for a very different kind of holiday.

Heller’s family has preserved its egg-dyeing custom. But there won’t be much of an Easter egg hunt, because members are staying inside their respective homes.

SIGN OF THE TIMES at Walgreen’s in Morristown, April 11, 2020. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Dinner will be shared virtually–after an online church service– and the dyed hard-boiled eggs will have to resign themselves to being eaten later, said Heller, a student at Drew University, which has shut down during the pandemic.

At Morristown’s Kings Food Market, masked customers queued six feet apart for checkout on Saturday.

“Because of the coronavirus, shopping habits are different than they’ve ever been before,” store manager Peter Gardner acknowledged.

While Kings hasn’t been limiting quantities of eggs and ham – Easter staples – Gardner said customers could expect a much harder time finding what they want due to produce shortages.

The supermarket has been working with more farms to source eggs, trying to keep up with demand as best it can.  (Easter candy has been selling at a surprisingly healthy clip at the nearby Walgreen’s, according to an employee there. The shelves still had ample supplies on Saturday.)

Gardner  emphasized that customers must cover their faces when they shop, and maintain space between themselves and others in the store.

Going forward, families should limit their number of shoppers– Gardner suggested having one designated shopper – and they should not rush out to shop in the morning, the busiest time at supermarkets, when employees can become overwhelmed. The store will be closed on Easter.

In the parking lot on Saturday, Nora Parker of Morris Township loaded a sizable stash of groceries into her car trunk. She’ll be spending Easter with a large gathering. But don’t call the State Police.

“It’s just me and the dogs,” said Parker, whose dinner companions will be a Rottweiler and four chihuahuas.

Which isn’t so unusual, considering she works at St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in Madison. (St. Hubert’s continues to schedule pet adoptions by appointment, she said, and it’s giving away pet food via a drive-through on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.)

Robert Kovus of Morristown waits in line at Kings–the floors are marked at six-foot intervals–with last-minute items for Easter. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Morristown resident Robert Kovus his wife plan to enjoy Easter lamb and ricotta, as always.  But their dinner table conversation will be shared with family via a Zoom video chat.

Kovus will be thinking about his youngest daughter, Julianne, 25, an emergency room nurse at Morristown Medical Center.

“We haven’t seen her for a couple of weeks,” Kovus said. Fortunately, he said, she remains well, aside from seasonal allergies. The former military reservist is proud of her.

“I did 35 years with the FBI,” he said. “Serving the community is a good feeling.”

Kevin Coughlin contributed to this report.

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