An Easter bonnet is any new or fancy hat worn at Easter, by tradition. It represents the tail-end of a tradition of wearing new clothes at Easter, in harmony with the renewal of the year and the promise of spiritual renewal and redemption.
The "Easter bonnet" was fixed in popular culture by Irving Berlin, whose frame of reference was the Easter parade in New York City, a festive walkabout that made its way down Fifth Avenue from St. Patrick's Cathedral: "In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it, You'll be the grandest lady in the Easter parade".
Today the Easter bonnet is a type of hat that women and girls wear to Easter services, and (in the US) in the Easter parade following it. Ladies purchased new and elaborate designs for particular church services, and in the case of Easter, taking the opportunity of the end of Lent to buy luxury items. Now, in a more casual society, Easter Bonnets are becoming harder to find, as fewer and fewer women bother with the tradition.
Easter, also called Pasch or Resurrection Sunday, is a festival and holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, described in the New Testament as having occurred on the third day of his burial after his crucifixion by Romans at Calvary c. 30 AD. It is the culmination of the Passion of Christ, preceded by Lent (or Great Lent), a forty-day period of fasting, prayer, and penance.
Easter is linked to the Jewish Passover by much of its symbolism, as well as by its position in the calendar. In many languages, the words for "Easter" and "Passover" are identical or very similar. Easter customs vary across the Christian world, and include sunrise services, exclaiming the Paschal greeting, clipping the church, and decorating Easter eggs, a symbol of the empty tomb.
The Easter lily, a symbol of the resurrection, traditionally decorates the chancel area of churches on this day and for the rest of Eastertide. Additional customs that have become associated with Easter and are observed by both Christians and some non-Christians include egg hunting, the Easter Bunny, and Easter parades.
Find bonnet retailers in our clothing store directory.
Learn more about bonnets in our headwear definitions section.
Years ago, the tradition of wearing an elaborate Easter bonnet came about as people bought new clothes to celebrate the end of Lent (the 40 days of fasting and prayer for Christians that begins on Ash Wednesday). The first social occasion after the lent period would be a trip to church on Easter Sunday morning (which is today; March 27, 2016). The trip to church is the perfect opportunity to show off a new outfit and matching bonnet that can be laden with bows, flowers and trimmings.
Fine hats adorn the heads of church ladies old and young on Easter. We hope you enjoy today, and take the time to learn more about the true meaning of Easter as well as the fashion that is relevant to the holiday.