While it won’t be an actual procession, this year’s annual New York City Easter Parade and Bonnet Festival will take place virtually on Sunday, April 12. The festive event dates back to the 1870s but was, of course, canceled this year due to the coronavirus crisis. But the Fifth Avenue Association is taking it to Instagram, encouraging participants to “dress up in their most creative, home-crafted Easter outfits, strike a pose in quintessential Fifth Avenue style and participate in a virtual parade.”
The NYC Easter Parade in 1904, via Wikimedia Commons
The Easter Parade’s origins date back to the mid-19th century when churches like Trinity Church and St. Patrick’s Cathedral decorated their sanctuaries with beautiful flowers for the holiday. To match the displays, wealthy Victorian-era women would wear equally elaborate dresses and hats to Easter mass. This became so much of a spectacle that high-society New Yorkers would walk from church to church to see the displays and show off their outfits. Those without the means to participate would gather to watch them walk by, and by 1890, this event officially became the NYC Easter Parade.
As 6sqft previously explained, “by 1900 [Easter] was as large on the retail scene as was Christmas. In 1933, famed songwriter Irving Berlin wrote the music for a Broadway show called As Thousands Cheer that included the popular song Easter Parade, which was turned into a film starring Fred Astaire and Judy Garland. Radio City even had a yearly Easter show similar to their Christmas show that started in the 1930s. But by the middle of the 20th century, the religious aspects of Easter began to dwindle, and many viewed the holiday as purely a lavish display of American wealth.”
In more recent years, the Easter Parade has become even better known for its accompanying Bonnet Festival, where New Yorkers create and don outrageous, flamboyant hats. Normally, the parade kicks off on 49th Street and Fifth Avenue and heads north past St. Patrick’s Cathedral to 57th Street.
Jerome Barth, President of the Fifth Avenue Association, said of this year’s event: “While we are sad that the Easter parade had to be postponed this year, we still wanted to provide a way for people to keep this nearly 150-year tradition alive, show off their best Easter looks and celebrate. While necessarily separated, this is a fun way for the community to come together virtually and we can’t wait to see the creative bonnets and stylish outfits.”
According to a press release, participants are encouraged to “post an Instagram story or a static post to their feed, tagging @Fifth.Avenue.NYC and using the special hashtag #EasterOnFifth.” The Fifth Avenue Association will showcase the best photos in a slideshow on its website on Tuesday, April 14th.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral is also live-streaming its Easter mass at 10am. You can watch it here.