Did you know that 25th March is ‘Wear A Hat Day’? Always a fan of a kooky celebration day it made us think of Easter bonnets!
We’ve all had a go at making them in school but for many of us enough time has elapsed where we have forgotten exactly why?
An Easter bonnet is any new or fancy hat worn by tradition as a Christian headcovering on Easter. It represents the tradition of wearing new clothes at Easter, in harmony with the renewal of the year and the promise of spiritual renewal and redemption.
The history of the Easter Bonnet, goes back to the 4th Century. This is the time of Constantine the Great, widely regarded as the first Roman Emperor to embrace Christianity.
Keeping in line with the ancient springtime tradition of renewal, re-birth and now resurrection, it became fashionable for the Romans to wear shiny new clothes on Easter Sunday, having spent the previous forty days of Lent wearing the same old, same old.
As the trend trickled down to the masses, it became bad luck if you didn’t have new clothes to wear on Easter Sunday. This even got a mention in ‘Poor Robin’, a 16th-century satirical book, that noted in rhyme, “At Easter let your clothes be new, or else be sure you will it rue”.
Over the pond in the US, there is a noted Easter Parade of 1870, when the post-Easter service congregation came out of St Patrick’s Cathedral and walked down Fifth Avenue in their finery. The women’s colourful bonnets stood out against the men’s dark suits and hats possibly inspiring Irwin Berlin to write ‘Easter
Parade’ in 1933, which was immortalised by the eponymous 1948 musical starring Judy Garland and Fred Astaire.
So how is a bonnet different to a hat? Hats were often made of stiffer material such as felt or straw, worn on the top of the head with the crown and brim roughly horizontal, while bonnets were made of softer fabric and lace, worn on the back of the head with any brim framing the front of the face and held on with ribbon or a strap under the chin.