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April 23, 2003

Holy Week, 2003

Do You Suffer from HWADD?


With Holy Week upon us, many Greek young adults find themselves in church more times this week than at all other times of the year combined. Maybe it's the multitude of nighttime church services, or maybe its all the added features of this week's services that does it, but every year, there are quite a number of cases of Holy Week Attention Deficit Disorder (HWADD) reported in churches across the area. Young Adults between the ages of 18 and 30 are most likely to fall victim to HWADD, a condition marked by unexpected outbursts, uncontrollable laughter and often regressive behavior. 

Don't believe that HWADD exists? Ask yourself the following question: Why is it that when you give anyone under the age of 30 a candle on Good Friday or Holy Saturday, they suddenly become 8 years old again? You've seen these people. They know they're not supposed to play with the wax, and that they'll probably get burned, or get it all over their clothes, but they still tip the candle over, trying to get those wax fingernails they've always wanted, and they're surprised when the wax oozes like lava into their palms. If you haven't witnessed this phenomenon, pay attention to those folks who are left with the little stumpy candles at the end of the service, a sure sign of chronic candle players. 

If playing with wax wasn't bad enough, HWADD brings out the pyromania in many unsuspecting victims. You'll see them putting their candles dangerously close to the ladies' hair in front of them until they hear the slightest crackle of hairspray, perfume or other flammable substance coming off of the strands of hair. Five or ten years ago when women used a lot more hairspray, an open flame could cause some major catastrophes if even placed a few inches away from big hair. (Communities in other parts of the country may still have this problem.) It was also fun to watch the ladies wearing the fur coats almost having their coats share the same fate as the lamb on the Easter menu the next day. 

Another symptom of HWADD is church inappropriate outbursts. We remember one year during Good Friday service, a young woman's hair caught on fire while she was going under the Epitaphio when she got too close to the candle of the person behind her. More memorable than the smell of burning hair was the sound of her dropping the S-bomb in church. Granted, swearing is a completely natural reaction if your hair was on fire at a ball game, at a bar, or anywhere else, but it's particularly inappropriate in church. Watching the looks of concern on most everyone's face was classic, not because her hair was on fire and the smell lasted for the next ten minutes, but for her inappropriate use of language in church. 

The longer the service is, the greater the effect of HWADD on the Greek young adult. Maybe it's because Greek-Americans don't have the patience or the attention span to sit through anything longer than an hour and a half, be it church, a movie, or whatever. Maybe it's that they can't go that long without talking either, but when you combine the two, suddenly everything in the second or third hour of the service becomes funny, and you get many cases of the uncontrollable inappropriate laughter or giggles. (This must have been the reason that the Orthodox church created kneeling to give people the chance to hide their heads in their hands to try to control themselves when something normally unremarkable that the priest said is funny just because he said it in a Greek accent.) HWADD makes everything from the wind blowing out your candle three times to watching an altar boy lose his place in line, to hearing the chanters say "Kyrie Elision," 40 times fast, the funniest thing in the world. 

Along with laughing, uncontrollable yawning is another symptom associated with HWADD. It doesn't matter how much sleep the person got the night before or how early in the service it is, yawning is an inevitable outcome with HWADD sufferers. Unfortunately yawning is contagious, even more so than laughter; it's a constant reminder to us all that HWADD can be spread from person to person. 

A lesser-known symptom of HWADD is a total lack of coordination. We once witnessed a rare Epitaphio dropping incident. Sure the people involved would to this day say it was because they were trying to get a 7 foot high Epitaphio through a 7 foot doorway, but those trained in recognizing the disorder knew that HWADD was to blame. To their credit, the pallbearers recovered quickly, with no laughing, no gratuitous swearing, and not so much as a peep out of them, the altar boys, or anyone else near the front of the procession. Seems the fear of going straight to Hell is one of the best-known cures for HWADD. 

Short of the feeling of impending utter damnation, if HWADD should strike you this week, try the following remedies:

1) Stare at the ground. Things are less funny, you are less likely to make an inappropriate outburst when staring at the ground. 

2) Pray.  A simple repetition of Kyrie Elision can calm you down to the point where you can focus on church again. Just don't think of the chanters saying it 40 times fast when you do it.

3) Try following along with the Greek side of the service book when the priest is talking in English and vice versa.  On the fly translation takes so much out of you, that you can't really focus on anything else. 

With that said, we wish everyone a blessed Holy Week and a joyous Pascha. As recovering HWADD sufferers we only ask that if you suffer from this ailment, stay as far away from us this week as you can, because the only thing worse than getting HWADD is getting over it a second time.

Read past feature articles