When my sister and I were children, Easter held special meaning for us. We would get to shop for new clothes to wear to church on Easter Sunday, and my favorite part was shopping for a hat. Sometimes my mother made our dresses and even coats, but the hats and shoes had to be purchased and it was great fun!
We went to a hat shop in a small plaza that is no longer in existence. I remember trying on all kinds of hats until we found the perfect one. My sister and I tried to choose different hats to suit our personalities, but really we ended up looking a lot alike.
We needed patent leather shoes also. I remember how tight they were at first, and how we didn’t get to wear them very much except to church. My mother also wore a special dress or suit and a hat. My dad was in his only suit. We didn’t have much money when I was little, and so now I wonder how my parents afforded new shoes, hats, and dresses for us, but they always did.
After church when we were very little, we got to look for our Easter baskets and then later we had a big dinner together. My mother was a wonderful cook, and both dinner and dessert were a special treat on Easter.
Now when I go to church, I see less fancy clothing and more casual dress even on holidays. On Easter, however, I sometimes see little girls in pastel dresses and wide-brimmed hats with ribbons, and I can see on their faces how happy they are to be dressed up in such special clothes.
Easter hats became popular at the end of the Civil War when women who had worn black for mourning the loss of their husbands and sons changed their clothing into brighter colors, adding colorful flowered hats and corsages for Easter. If real flowers were unavailable, paper flowers and feathers were added. In the 1870s, the first Easter parade has held in New York City and has continued to this day. Irving Berlin wrote his famous song “Easter Parade” in 1933, and I remember hearing the song as a child and loving the idea of dressing up each year.
Recently, I was visiting my granddaughters in Los Angeles and we went shopping in a children’s clothing store. My eighteen-month-old granddaughter picked up a yellow straw hat with a white ribbon and bow hanging on a rack and put it on her head. It was much too large, but she refused to take it off. She walked around the store in her sheer white cotton dress and fancy hat, and I remembered the feeling I had at Easter wearing a hat. We didn’t buy the hat for her because it was much too big, but I have a picture of her in it, and I love the way she smiles at the camera, so proud of her hat.
Maybe that’s what we all need this Easter season when so much of the news is depressing, when we see the devastation from tornadoes in our country, follow the disaster in Japan and the news of nuclear catastrophe, and hear of our service men and women dying in Iraq and Afghanistan. Maybe we need flowered hats to bring us some happiness. Easter Sunday was historically referred to as the “Sunday of Joy.” It didn’t have anything to do with chocolate bunnies or Peeps or small Easter toys. It was a spiritual joy which everyone can find. Maybe we just need to find some color, some brightness to get rid of the gloom of the dreary days of winter. We could wear some pink, yellow, blue, or lavender, all great colors to celebrate the hope and joy of spring.