Some traditions die hard, and others, well, let’s just say they have a built-in expiration date.
It has long been a tradition for people, particularly religious people, to purchase new clothes at Easter. It was Irving Berlin who immortalized the wearing of Easter bonnets in song after observing the annual Easter parade in New York City. After Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the newly-frocked congregants would literally parade down the street in their fancy attire.
Formal and informal parading of new Easter clothes, particularly hats, has been a part of the Southern landscape as well. In fact, there’s a well-known and highly-anticipated event on Monument Avenue in Richmond every year that features a wide array of elaborate costumes and hats. The silliness notwithstanding, it does harken back to the bygone days when new clothes at Easter were symbolic of new beginnings, the budding of spring and the Christian celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
But what about today? Where have all the bonnets gone? Frankly, where has all of the dressing up gone? Does anyone buy new clothes at Easter anymore?
Church attendance, even on Easter, is no longer a given. If you’re not going anywhere requiring new duds then you probably are as likely to buy spring clothes at the President’s Day sale as during the weeks leading up to Easter.
Also contributing to the disappearance of new clothes at Easter is the casualization of culture. It is rare to see men in neckties these days, and even more rare to see a woman under the age of 50 wearing hose. Except for politicians, funeral home employees and college presidents, most people feel dressed up in business casual.
Don’t hear me complaining. It’s good to get a new tie every once in a while. Last year it was light green with circular fireworks of blue. The year before that it was a light blue tie covered in shapes resembling popcorn. Nothing livens up a khaki suite like a pastel tie.
I don’t have many opportunities to dress up anymore, but when I do, I’m going to have something new that matches my sons. With our matching outfits we’ll look like we just stepped out of the Easter parade.
So with apologies to Irving Berlin, here’s my adaptation of his song:
In your Easter tie,
which you’ll probably wear when you die,
you’ll be the most overdressed husband on Easter Sunday.