Saturday, April 7, 2012

No Easter Parade?

Happy Easter!

You may remember that, at Christmas, I justified my simple non-costume-related greeting with a speculative essay about the evolution of Santa Claus's costume.

There's no need for me to contrive a costume-related connection for Easter.  The Easter holiday has a legitimate costume connection; the long-standing tradition of wearing new clothes for Easter. When I was a little girl, my mother always made sure I had a new dress to wear to church on Easter Sunday, even if she could not afford a new dress for herself.

When I was a child, it did not occur to me to wonder how widespread the new-clothing-for-Easter tradition was, but if Wikipedia is correct, it is a tradition of surprisingly long standing. Wikipedia says that there is literary evidence that the tradition of new clothes for Easter (which finally devolved into the tradition of wearing an Easter bonnet in Easter parades) goes back to the 16th century CE.

It's hard to say where the tradition began. The connection may be something as simple as a sartorial reflection of the connection between Easter and new life. It may also be worth noting that, at least in England, Lady Day, March 25, was treated as New Year's Day during the 16th century.

Certainly it's easy to see the attraction in wearing new clothes publicly for Easter, after being cooped up indoors through the winter under circumstances where keeping clean would be a serious trial.  It would be a very desirable thing to wear new clothes while getting out and about in the spring sunshine.

Anyway, whether or not you celebrate Easter as a religious observance, I wish you all a wonderful day tomorrow.


  1. I've seen reference to new liveries for whole households at easter during the medieval period as well (am away from by books right now or I'd check, but stella mary newton is springing to mind)

    My family are all athiest but my mother always insisted I had to have a new dress for easter sunday or she said if I went outside birds would deliberately fly over to poo on me

  2. Hi, thanks for stopping by! It's interesting to hear that the "new clothes for Easter" tradition goes back to the Middle Ages.

  3. Wow - I had no idea the tradition was so old. Food for thought. And the bird poo story made me giggle.