Just the mere mention of an Easter Bonnet and my memory swells with favorites from my childhood. Sometimes the hat was brand new and sometimes it was a hand-me-down from my older (and wiser she tells me) sister – but it was new to me. I waited each year for Easter so I could show off my latest treasure and I felt like a princess as we headed to church on Easter morning. I think I walked just a little taller and straighter those days to show off my finery.
Alas, I wonder now if the Easter bonnet has gone the way of hand written notes – a thoughtful pastime so seldom now enjoyed. That got me thinking about the tradition of the Easter bonnet – off to do some research on the subject.
An Easter bonnet represents the tail-end of a tradition of wearing new clothes at Easter in harmony with the renewal of the year and the promise of spiritual renewal and redemption.. Ladies purchased new and elaborate designs for church services, and in the case of Easter, taking the opportunity of the end of Lent to buy luxury items. Easter Bonnets come from European traditions of wearing flowers on a hat to celebrate spring.
The icy grip of winter gives way to the warm days of spring. The landscape is reborn as Mother Nature adorns it with lush green grass, bushes, budding trees, and colorful wildflowers. A sense of euphoria envelops the people who act out their traditional rites of spring.
In Roman times, young women celebrated this season by wearing wreaths of laurel and olive leaves, intertwined with flowers. Some believe this symbolizes rebirth, hope, and a new beginning.
Now, in a more casual society, Easter Bonnets are becoming harder to find, as fewer and fewer women bother with the tradition. Still, modern Easter bonnets for children are usually white wide-brimmed hats with a pastel colored satin ribbon around it and tied in a bow. It may also have flowers or other springtime motifs on top, and may match a special dress picked out for the occasion. – hey, wait – that’s just what I had as a child of the 50s and 60s.
I know that in towns large and small you may still find the traditional Easter Parade and all manner of fancy bonnets will be found. Beyond these parades, do folks still buy and show off their fancy hats?
Easter Bonnets appear in art and on vintage postcards and often referred to in music – all celebrating spring renewal and a gentler time gone by. I shall hold fast to my memories of my favorite bonnet. And of course it meant after church whipping it off as fast as possible and heading to the Easter Egg hunt – I needed something to put my finds in.