Worshipping at the Cross – or the shops

IAN CLARKE Two groups of people will have weary legs this weekend - and their different reasons for tiredness encapsulate the contrasting faces of Easter.

IAN CLARKE

Two groups of people will have weary legs this weekend - and their different reasons for tiredness encapsulate the contrasting faces of Easter.

For the 200 pilgrims who today complete the annual Student Cross march to the Norfolk shrine village of Walsingham from various parts of the country and for fellow Christians, this is the most significant time of the year.

Today they mark Jesus's crucifixion before celebrating his resurrection on Sunday.

But for tens of millions of others, Easter is "just another bank-holiday weekend" and the chance to pound the aisles of supermarkets, DIY stores and garden centres.

While most shops and centres such as Chapelfield and Castle Mall in Norwich have to stay closed on Easter Sunday, tills will be ringing louder than ever on Good Friday and the rest of the weekend.

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A survey out yesterday showed that a record number of Easter cards - about 14 million - are sent, making it the second most popular occasion for greetings after Christmas.

That seems to contradict the view that Easter's significance has been lost.

And the hectic pace of this "holiday" weekend also flies in the face of more new research showing that one in three workers did not take all their lieu time last year as they were too busy.

Low-cost airline Ryanair did its best to keep some "Christian" meaning of Easter by hailing its record business as getting "hot-crossed bums on seats".

Among shoppers in Dereham yesterday, Janet Howe, 63, from Scarning, said; "I will be shopping in Dereham on Good Friday. I think that is what a lot of people do at Easter."

BT worker Dave Wood, 38, from Lakenham, Norwich, said: "I'm going to do as little as possible on Good Friday. I am not religious and I volunteered for overtime but there isn't any."

Rachel Courtney, 21, from Fakenham, said: "I have got to work every day except Sunday. I haven't really got any plans although I'll probably spend some time with my family. Easter does not mean a lot to me. To other people in my family it does but to me it is just another holiday."

Mother-of-one Anne-Marie McMahon, 21, from Toftwood, said: "My partner is working on Good Friday so we won't be doing anything. On Sunday and Monday we will be going out to Thrigby Wildlife Park and some other places.

"The meaning of Easter seems to get missed nowadays. All the kids seem to know is chocolate and Easter eggs."

Brenda Manning, 67, of North Elmham, said: "I disagree with the shops being open during Easter. Everybody should be allowed to have a holiday."

Student Cross pilgrimage national organiser Laura Bradley said: "The Stu-dent Cross helps us grow in our faith as we walk towards Easter and remember Christ's death and resurrection. We pray and sing and bear witness to our faith as we walk. It is a long way but it is made easier as we have an important reason for doing the Student Cross."