One of the more intriguing aspects about the English language is how it is constantly changing. New words are added every year to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. As a lay pastor and blog writer, I really try hard to keep up with these new words so I can be relevant to today’s quickly changing society. This past January 2021, there were 520 new words added that express and explain the world we live in. Three of the 520 new words added were hard pass, cancel culture and crowdfunding.
Emily Brewster, a senior editor from Merriam-Webster mentions that lexicographers have criteria, with this quote, “In order for a word to be considered for entry in our dictionaries, we have to have evidence that shows this is really an established member of the language,” Sometimes that process to ensure it is established might take years. But no word has ever been added as quickly as “COVID-19”. It is a nickname from the coronavirus, (the “CO” is from corona, “VI” from virus, “D” from disease, and “19” from the year of onset, 2019). To add COVID-19 to the Merriam-Webster dictionary took a mere 34 days. Before “COVID-19,″ the fastest a word that entered the dictionary was two years with the term “AIDS,” which was added in 1984, two years after it’s coinage.
We are told we are now in the third wave of the pandemic here in Ontario, Canada. The last two days in Ontario there were 6.098 new COVID-19 cases. Which has resulted in another lockdown. And as COVID-19 continues to rage on, our world and our language continues to be transformed. We have new meanings for “pod” and “bubble“. And “long-hauler” is no longer just referring to a long-haul truck driver. Additional words and meaning relating specifically to the pandemic are self-isolate, social distancing, epidemic curve, contactless, contact tracing, community spread, intensivist and herd immunity.
There are some other COVID-19 related words floating around which lexicographers are monitoring to see if they meet the criteria for the next Merriam-Webster update. One of the words that has just recently been starting to emerge is “Coronial” for the Coronavirus generation who were born between December 2020, and when this pandemic ends. Then there is COVID-hair. It is not yet in the dictionary, but we know what it means.
I did also have COVID-hair in the late spring of 2020. When the infection rates eventually came down in the summer of 2020, and hair salons were allowed to re-open, I got my hair cut. I had a graveside service I was about to conduct, so the haircut was important. That was over 8 months ago, and my hair once again had gotten long and shaggy. Even though I would not be conducting or attending any Easter church services, I still wanted to look nice for Easter. So I got my hair cut.
As long as I could remember, Easter Sunday was a day to dress up in our best clothes. If my hair was needing a trim, my dad made sure it was cut at my Uncle Bernal’s before Easter. Even though most years there might not have been a new outfit, I still wore my best clothes for Easter. It was a tradition not only in my family, but actually goes back hundreds of years
A March 2020 article in Better Homes and Gardens mentions, “Christians in medieval times began wearing new clean clothes on Easter Sunday to symbolize the resurrection of Jesus and the new life for Christian believers. In 300 A.D. Roman emperor Constantine (he was the first Christian Emperor) even declared his court would be required to wear their nicest new clothing on Easter Sunday.” The significance is really powerful. On that first Easter morning, a 4,000 pound stone has been rolled away, and in John 20:7 it mentions Jesus’s burial clothes were left behind. They were simply not needed anymore. Christ had risen. The incredible thing about the burial linens was that the headpiece was neatly folded and set in a separate spot. There was order and calmness by it all. This dispels any argument that Jesus’s body was stolen. Who would unwrap the grave clothes and neatly fold the linen before removing the body? The Bible doesn’t mention any detail what kind of garment Jesus was wearing after He rose from the dead. This is one of those unanswered questions. Mary of Magdala mistook Jesus for the gardener. The disciples thought they had seen a ghost. If God was powerful enough to repair sinew, to sew back together torn flesh, to reform the electrochemical matrix of the brain of Jesus, to supply blood to his body, to start a still heart beating again and to once more breath life into a corpse, then it’s not really too big a stretch to imagine that the God who can do all this can also supply clothes. Matthew 5:31-33 refers to the fact that God knows that we need them and has promised nothing less.
There are several instances where the Bible uses the symbol of clothing to teach us an analogy. One area is the topic of righteousness. From The Free Dictionary, the word righteous means, “Morally upright, without guilt or sin.” Personally, I could never be morally upright, and without guilt or sin. In fact Isaiah 64:6 says, “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” By trusting in Jesus, we do have righteousness that comes from God. Romans 1:17 says, “In the Gospel, the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, “The just shall love by faith.” Isaiah 61:10 says, “ I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness.”
Just now, the day before Easter Sunday, another lockdown has just started here in Ontario. Having no idea of this upcoming lockdown, the previous Tuesday, Kathy at Hairy Tales tidied my COVID hair up and gave me a nice trim. It had been 8 months since it was preciously cut, and I really wanted to be cleaned up for Easter. Because of lockdown, even though there will be no actual physical church to attend (our church has actually been closed since Dec. 2020, after re-opening for 3 months. Before that it it had been closed for 6 months do to COVID), I’ll be dressing up in my finest clothes for Easter when I watch church online. There is a wonderful new hashtag trending on Twitter, which says #DressUPnotdown. Which I love. And even though I haven’t been shopping for new clothes, I still want to dress in my best for Easter. It is a way I can express my worship to Jesus. Because Jesus gave His best for me. He gave His life for me. Romans 5:8 says, “For God demonstrates His love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Wearing new clothes or my best clothes on Easter symbolizes the resurrection of Jesus and the new life for Christian believers.
When European settlers came to North America, they brought the tradition of wearing a new outfit or your best clothes for Easter with them. Though according to News for Tomorrow, “it was not until after the devastation of the Civil War in America, that the churches fully saw Easter as a source of hope for Americans. Easter was called “The Sunday of Joy,” and women traded the dark colors of mourning for the happier colors of spring.”
Just like the English language has changed drastically in my lifetime, I have noticed dressing up for Easter in my lifetime has changed. It has lost much of any religious significance it might have had. Although many of us may still don new clothes on Easter, the tradition doesn’t feel as special. It’s not because of any religious ambivalence. But I feel because we as a society buy and wear new clothes all the time. At one time in this country, lower and even middle class families shopped only one or two times a year at the local store or from a catalog. For example, as a child on the farm, my mom either sewed new clothes for us kids, or she shopped from the Simpson Sears (later becoming Sears catalogue) for arrival in time for Easter. We wore clothes until they were outgrown and passed on, or they wore out. But in the last few decades, retailing options have boomed. We have become a consumer driven society. There’s hundreds of clothing retail stores in every city for our shopping pleasure, and countless internet merchants allow us to shop 24/7. This encourages us to buy new clothes far more frequently than when I was a child.
God bless, and have an amazing Easter. Please remember, He IS risen!