Thursday, April 21, 2011

In Your Easter Bonnet

Before I  moved to the home I reside in now, I lived in a predominantly Christian neighborhood.  People there went to church every Sunday. One Easter Sunday I was heading out to the store just as many of my neighbors were heading out to the church service , and I was quite shocked to see a group of young girls heading off to church wearing jeans...and then I saw a few more. Later I saw a family; dad in a shirt and pants, mom in slacks, and the two little girls dressed in everyday play clothes. It wasn't cold out that day; in fact, it was one of the warmer Easters on record.  Besides, when I was a little girl, it didn't matter what the weather; I was dressed for Easter Sunday. 

It is remarkable how times have changed. When I was coming up, Easter always called for buying new clothes, and on Easter Sunday,  my friends and I would all be outdoors showing off our Easter outfits. For me, it was one of the highlights of my year.  I always felt so special.  Mom made sure she always decked me out in a new dress, new patent leather shoes, gloves, a little purse, and the best part, of course, was the Easter bonnet.  Of course, even if it snowed, everything  had to be in some springlike pastel shade like lilac, sky blue, pink. 

And before church, I always had my picture taken in the front yard, always the same pose, the same smile, and oh how I smiled, the same spot  in the the hedges, facing towards the back yard.  You don't know how much I looked forward to that picture!  I always felt so special, so proud, so pretty, standing their all decked out. I guess that was because it was one of the few times I really got some much-needed attention from my mom.  After the photo shoot, it was off to church for mass and then off to grandma's house for dinner and, of course, another chance to show off. 

In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it,
You'll be the grandest lady in the Easter Parade.
I'll be all in clover and when they look you over,
I'll be the proudest fellow in the Easter Parade.
On the avenue, Fifth Avenue, 
the photographers will snap us,
And you'll find that you're in the rotogravure.
Oh, I could write a sonnet about your Easter bonnet,
And of the girl I'm taking to the Easter Parade

Words and music by Irving Berlin

There are several reasons for the custom of dressing up on this day.  To begin with, Jewish men and women always wore their best clothing to the feast of Passover, and since the early Jewish/Christians often combined Passover with Easter, many of them took to wearing their finest clothing to their church services.   

Another element in dressing up for Easter comes to us from Pagan traditions. Our ancestors always welcomed Spring with huge celebrations, bonfires, feasting, and joyous singing in dancing. In their minds, they were blessed to have just survived another tough winter, and this was a time to be thankful for the passing of the dark, cold days and the days of brightness and sunshine that had returned. The new clothes that they wore at these celebrations was one of their ways of welcoming hope and the new life that arrived with the warmer days. The Easter bonnet got its start as a wreath of flowers and leaves, the circle being an expression of the roundness of the sun and its travel through the heavens which brought it back for the return of Spring.

In later times, when the people from these old cultures became Christians, the missionaries offered up a brand new reason to dress up for Easter.    Putting on one's finest attire was a way to acknowledge their new life that came from being reborn in Christ.  Thus, the wearing new clothes for Easter became a way to display one's belief in the new faith.  

At any rate, to me, Spring, Easter, and dressing up signifies the beginnings of all things new, a time of renewal and regeneration of the Earth.   The tradition of the new Easter outfit symbolizes the putting away of winter and the bringing new freshness and vitality into your life.  I may not attend church services anymore, and I may not even get dressed up anymore, but Easter, to me, will always be a special time, and in my memories, I will always be that little smiling girl proudly posing in the front yard.


  1. Yes, I remember dressing up for Easter Sunday too (although one dressed up for regular Sundays as well). Girly-girl dress, bobby sox, mary janes, little white gloves and, in my tiny purse, a white handkerchief with my initial embroidered on it.


  2. Your Easters were EXACTLY like mine with the exception of where the picture was taken.
    I dressed mine up and we went to church and there came a year that I fell away from the church thing and Tradition went to Hell in a Hand to speak.
    The stores are selling the lovliest of Easter outfits for both boys and girls.
    Hope I see some kids dressed up in my travels Easter Sunday. :0)
    Loved Easter,the egg coloring and getting to wear my new finery. :0)
    Looked forward to going to my Polish aunts and bapsha's for a colored egg with my name on it. Can remember the eggs, but not bapsha's face. She passed away when I was around 6. :0(

  3. Good morning Mary....what a beautiful story you shared with your Easter memories. Mine were much the same as yours...only I always had to make sure I had white shoes. After always wore white you remember that? I would make sure mine were always the I would polish them EVERY about one's life being out of control...I the time...that was just about all I could control.



  4. Yes, how times have changed, in regard to dressing for a holiday like Easter.

    Actually, my mother and I always got a new hat for Christmas. :-) Usually one of those close-to-the-head ones, covered in pretty, soft .... What were they called??? Sequins? But not bright and flashy sequins. Pale... :-)

    Wishes for you to enjoy your family this weekend!!!

    Gentle hugs,

  5. When I was very young, my mom would dress me up for Easter. I suppose I did still get dressed up when I was older too, but that was more because I was in the Choir and in front of the whole church. :) I do remember one Sunday (not Easter) when a friend of mine went to church in shorts. As we walked out together, an older woman slapped her in the butt with her wicker purse and yelled at her for wearing shorts in church. LOL. Good times! :)

  6. I remember wanting a frilly dress, purse, hat and shoes for Easter once when I was 8 or 9. I got a pair of red pants and a white blouse with a black little tie at the neck.....
    My mom always wanted me to be a boy. I hated the color red for years after. Love it now...guess I forgave mom:)
    Love your memories here Mary.