EVANSTON — The 19th Amendment Committee, in cooperation with Uinta County Senior Citizens, will host an Easter Bonnet Tea Party this weekend. The event is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 20, at the Evanston senior center. The party is open to men and women and pre-registration is required. Those interested may call Natalie at (307) 789-3553 to reserve a spot.
Wear an Easter hat to enter the best bonnet costume; there are also chances to win prizes in different categories. Refreshments will be served. Wyoming State Sen. Wendy Schuler, R-Evanston, will speak on the importance of women voting, and there will be an opportunity for anyone to share stories of their first vote.
Where did the tradition of Easter bonnets start? What about all those other special traditions surrounding Easter, where did they come from?
Before Christianity, the spring rites of the pagans were associated with the festival of the Spring Equinox and the Earth’s rebirth. Wreaths of flowers and leaves were worn in the hair of celebrants. Eostara, the German goddess of rebirth, invented nature’s regenerating and her first signs of spring were eggs and bunnies — all fertility symbols. Her name became the Germanized term Easter and the Christian church adopted many of the same symbols of the season and adapted them to their beliefs.
In early Europe, flowers worn in the hair or on hats celebrated spring. In the English tradition, new clothes for Easter signified inner growth. After the 40 days of “giving up” during Lent, new clothes would lift the spirit. Dairy products were traditionally given up during Lent, so eggs became associated with the celebration at Easter when they could once again be eaten.
Shakespeare even included the ritual of new clothes at Easter in his play, “Romeo and Juliet,” when Mercutio says that Benvolio will pick a fight with his tailor for wearing a new suit before Easter.
In post-Civil War U.S. in the late 1870s, women and children marched in a parade in New York City as they left St. Patrick’s Cathedral after Easter service. They wore new clothes, flowers in their hair and bonnets adorned with ribbons and paper flowers. In 1940, millions of people came to participate in the parade, and it became a show of prosperity and entertainment. Currently, approximately 30,000 people still come to show off their Easter bonnets.
The popularity for the parade grew in 1948, when Judy Garland and Fred Astaire starred in the film “Easter Parade” and Garland sang the hit song by the same title, which Irving Berlin had written in 1933. The lyrics are timeless:
“In your Easter bonnet with all the frills upon it, you’ll be the grandest lady in the Easter parade. I’ll be all in clover and when they look you over; I’ll be the proudest fellow in the Easter parade. On the avenue, Fifth Avenue, the photographers will snap us. And you’ll find that you’re in rotogravure. Oh, I could write a sonnet about your Easter bonnet. And of the girl I’m taking to the Easter parade.”