Easter Parade: Put on a Bonnet and Mingle

April 6, 2015 Updated: July 18, 2015

The Easter Parade on Fifth Avenue is one of those rare large-scale events where the spectators and the participants really blend. Perhaps because it is not actually a parade, the only way to distinguish an observer from a performer is by the outburst of creation expressed through a hat.

And some hat it is. A bevy of florals and Easter motifs, the chapeaus range from daring to inexplicable.

The hatters promenade along Fifth Avenue between 57th and 49th streets. And the audience, accidental or deliberate, mingles right in, interacting with the participants and abundantly taking pictures with them. Perhaps that is the real magic of the parade’s amusive atmosphere.

The tradition of flowery-hat display dates back to the mid-19th century, when Saint Thomas Church and St. Patrick’s Cathedral started to decorate their interiors with flowers for the Easter Sunday Mass. By that time, the custom of showing respect by wearing one’s best attire on Easter Sunday had already acquired a frivolous flair, with wealthy ladies flaunting their wardrobes. As the church flower decorations grew in intricacy, it was only natural for the ladies to garment their chapeaus accordingly.

Yet, some time in the second half of the 20th century, the showing off of fancy fashion trends loosened up, and all kinds of contraptions appeared on the avenue.