We’ve all heard about Easter Bonnets, particularly through the song Easter Parade made famous by Irving Berlin in nineteen forty-two, and first sung in the Bing Crosby movie called Holiday Inn - but do you know where and how the tradition of the Easter Bonnet began? You may be surprised to find out just how far back some of these old traditions go.
Easter has always been a time to celebrate rebirth and renewal, and regardless of whether you follow Christian teachings or not, the very act of giving eggs is a representation of this renewal process.
Another less familiar part of this renewal theme, though, is the tradition of wearing a new outfit for Easter. This began as early as the eighteen-seventies when the first organized Easter parade took place in New York City. While no longer considered a religious event by most, these parades came about as a tribute to the earliest recorded ‘Holy Week’ processions during the time of Jesus. Citizens, particularly ladies, would turn out in their finest garb on Easter Sunday to attend the morning service, and then proudly saunter down Fifth Avenue showing off their outfits.
Of course, the purchase of a new outfit for the Easter Parade depended largely on the individuals' budget at the time. If a complete new outfit was out of the question, the ladies at least aimed to wear a new bonnet; and if they were unable to afford one, they would make one by hand or redecorate an old one with flowers, ribbons and lace. During the great depression, a new bonnet was considered a luxury and highly valued by its wearer.
While the number of people turning out for the Easter Sunday parade has dwindled over the years; the event is still a highlight of the year and has spread to other cities. It has become more about family fun and outlandish hats, but in my opinion, any celebration that brings people together for fun and socialising is a good thing.
Even in schools, the Easter Bonnet has become an annual craft activity with children drawing, cutting, gluing and glittering their colorful creations and showing them off at the school assembly.
At the risk of sounding a little old-fashioned, I think that hats lend a certain elegance to an outfit, and I for one would love to see them return; not just to show-off on Easter Sunday, but as a regular part of our wardrobe.