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Churches, Colors and Eggs Mark Easter Celebration

April 20, 1987

Undated (AP) _ Americans observing Christianity’s holiest day prayed, protested and promenaded in bunny ears and Easter bonnets, while South Bend, Ind., was celebrating a post-Lenten fit of beer, kielbasa and polka dancing today.

″It’s like on St. Patrick’s Day, everybody’s Irish. On Dyngus Day, everybody’s Polish,″ says the Rev. Gene Kazmierczak, leader of one of the South Bend’s largest Polish Catholic parishes.

On Sunday, celebrities read scripture at a sunrise service at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, while thousands promenaded on New York’s Fifth Avenue in white gloves, frilly dresses, sailor suits and other spring finery.

Bertha Sheppard, 64, of Elizabeth, N.J., sported a bonnet of glittering eggs and stuffed miniature bunnies.

″It took a month to complete. I’ve made one every Easter for the past seven years,″ she said, posing for photographs with complete strangers. ″Next year, the theme is going to be ‘outer space.’ That’s a hint.″

A human-sized Easter bunny handed out bonnets of carrots and alfalfa sprouts to the elephants at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo, and the chimpanzees had their own Easter egg hunt. Cape Canaveral, Fla., held an Easter surfing festival, bikini contest and stunts involving explosives.

A Mass in Albuquerque, N.M., was broadcast on CBS-TV, while the Divine Liturgy celebrated by Ukranian Catholics in Philadelphia was beamed to parts of the Soviet bloc via Voice of America.

″It was a very joyful and emotional service since this was the only live contact about 90 percent of the congregation would have with their loved ones behind the Iron Curtain,″ said Msgr. Michael Fedorowich, one of the celebrants.

President Reagan and his wife, Nancy, celebrated Easter at the First Presbyterian Church near their California ranch, surprising hundreds of worshippers.

In Kennebunkport, Maine, 200 people organized by Veterans for Peace gathered on the steps of a church for a prayer, then marched to Vice President George Bush’s summer home two miles away.

″Many veterans are not willing to allow our policies in Central America to continue if they can stop it,″ said organizer Jerry Genesio of Portland, Maine.

Four people were arrested at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota for trespassing, officials said. About 60 people had gathered for sunrise services and to place lilies at the front gate in an anti-war gesture.

Dyngus Day, which began as pagan rite of spring before Poland’s conversion to Christianity in the 10th century, passes decorously in many Polish communitities, while in South Bend it is a sort of post-Lenten equivalent of Mardi Gras.

″It’s for single guys. Don’t take your wife,″ said Bill Michalski, whose family grocery store began grinding, seasoning and packing 5,000 pounds of Polish pork sausage a week ago.

Dyngus Day takes its name from the Slavic word for sprinkling. In pagan Poland, single men and women tapped each other with a reed or switch to designate their beaus; the reeds gave way to the sprinkling of perfumed water.

Soloists, choirs and a symphony performed sacred music for thousands in the Hollywood Bowl as dawn lighted the sky over the Hollywood Hills. Actress Shirley Jones sang, while Robert Stack and Rhonda Fleming gave readings.

Services and holiday meals for the homeless were offered at Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district, and 500 poor children hunted for Easter eggs at a nearby park.

″These people can’t afford Easter clothes and bonnets to go to church,″ said Willie Jordan, wife of mission founder Fred Jordan. ″This is their Easter on the street.″

In Washington, the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews donated more than 1,500 boxes of Passover matzo to the homeless, said a spokesman for the group. The matzo had been intended for refuseniks, or Soviet Jews denied permission to emigrate.

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