Throwback Thursday: Easter (Bonnet) Parade

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The custom of wearing hats at Easter is linked to the American tradition of The Easter Parade, which started in the 1870s after the end of the Civil War.  People would stream out of the churches following the Easter service dressed up to the nines in their best hats.

The first Easter Parade was the Fifth Avenue Parade in New York in 1870, when the beautiful people came out of St Patricks Cathedral and surrounding churches and walked down 5th Avenue.

Easter 5th Ave 1911  Parade of the fashionable

Easter 5th Ave 1911 Parade of the fashionable

Each successive year it gained in popularity reaching a peak in the 1940s where it is estimated a million people attended. As the tradition grew, it lost some of its religious significance and became more about a show of prosperity and frivolity.

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The 1948 film Easter Parade with Judy Garland and Fred Astaire, and the music of Irving Berlin really immortalised the practice of wearing Easter Bonnets, with the popular song Easter Parade which was originally written in 1933 and became one of the most popular songs about Easter.

These days the New York parade is a much smaller affair with about 30,000 people showing up each year to flaunt their hats. An Easter bonnet these days is all about size, craziness and quirky references to Easter, with many covered in eggs, bunnies and chicks.

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