Sunday, April 04, 2010

Easter Then, Easter Now

I was raised a Lutheran in a Catholic neighborhood in Queens. On Easter, the two religious seemed to meld into one big fashion statement. My friends and I followed the strict tenets of the city that gave the world the song "Easter Parade." Each of us left the house Easter Sunday wearing a new dress, a new spring coat in a pastel shade, matching shoes (patent leather or pastel) and bag, white gloves, and a hat.

The hats were usually made of white straw, often with a pastel ribbon. Or ribbons. Or flowers. Or lace. Whatever the style, one thing remained constant: We never wore the hat again. It was also unlikely that we ever wore the coat again. We certainly didn't wear the gloves again. The dress and shoes (and maybe the bag) might to to a party at some point, but the rest of the outfit stayed in the closet after Easter.

We wore the outfit to church, and then we hung around on the sidewalk in our Easter clothes. We did this all afternoon. My dad often took pictures. Then we went back home and ate a lot of chocolate.

Religions can be such curious phenomena. At what point did fashion become allied with the resurrection of Jesus? Is it a symbolic hat equals new life?

By the time my children came along, my concept of Easter had changed. My husband and I didn't go to church, and pastel spring coats just didn't fit in on the old farm. We colored eggs and did Easter crafts, and I filled baskets with little gifts in lieu of candy. My mother sent Easter outfits for them every year, and the girls enjoyed wearing pretty dresses as they hunted for Easter eggs in the front yard.

Now that they're grown, I'd probably ignore Easter if left to my own devices. But fortunately, today I wasn't. My daughter Suzanne's brother-in-law and his partner invited me to their Easter dinner. This is a Slavic Catholic celebration, different from the Irish and Italian Catholics of my childhood. Today's gorgeous table was decorated with Pysanky eggs in various sizes.

There were other differences, too. I wore beige pants, yellow shoes, and a linen top in spring colors. My 19-year-old granddaughter wore a strapless swirl dress in pink and white. The men wore shorts. In the house, most were barefoot. At one point my son-in-law ran home (literally ran, through the woods) to don a dry suit (it's like a wet suit, only dry) and go water skiing in 40 degree water.

But some things never change. After a delicious traditional Easter dinner, we sat in the living room surrounding a spread of desserts: Apple Crisp, Lemon Lush, Banana Bread, and something else. Mounds of pretzels surrounded a fondue pot of bubbling chocolate. Lots of chocolate.

Happy Easter, everyone.


Indigo Bunting said...

Happy Easter to you too. Ah, a holiday I don't celebrate anymore.

The hats thing is fascinating. I certainly had Easter outfits occasionally growing up, but no hats. What I find amazing is the one-time wear. Wow, people must have had money to burn!

Susan said...

I thought about that, too. My parents weren't extravagant spenders by any means, but they somehow accepted that every year they would spring for an outfit I'd basically wear once. I can't imagine being so cooperative with my kids. Think thrift-shop prom gowns for my daughters. (But they were lovely dresses!)

Deloney said...

I celebrate every holiday I can. Sweet post, Suze.

Susan said...

You're a wise man, Deloney.

crystal said...

Happy Easter, Susan :)