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The history of Easter bonnets

When celebrating Easter, many Christians don their best apparel to attend church services and family gatherings. On Easter Sunday, gentlemen often put on their best suits and women their fanciest dresses. Children, too, wear formal clothing on Easter Sunday. Girls in particular tend to wear an item of interest that seems to only appear once per year. 

Bonnets are part of the Easter attire for many girls, and even some women. Bonnets are part of long tradition of wearing new clothes on Easter that originated in parts of Europe, such as Great Britain. In fact, the tradition even dates back to Shakespearean times, as an "Easter suit" is referenced in "Romeo and Juliet."

According to some historians, there was a notion that ill-luck would affect a person who did not have something new to wear on Easter, and the bonnet is an element of newness that fits the bill for many young girls and women.

It wasn't until the 19th century that the Easter bonnet gained popularity in the Americas. Women and children participating in Easter parades, notably the New York City Easter Parade, could be seen in their finest clothes with intricate bonnets - often wreathed in flowers - on their heads. Because Easter coincides with spring, lilies, daffodils, azaleas, hyacinths, and other blooms would adorn hats and hair.

Even though the Easter bonnet may not be as popular as it once was, many people still embrace this tradition. In areas of the United Kingdom, for example, children and women design elaborate and ostentatious bonnets. In the United States, some hat-decorating contests still coincide with Easter festivities. Children in primary grades also may design Easter- or spring-themed hats that they can wear during holiday celebrations.

Easter bonnets have a storied history. From European beginnings to parade staples, they're often a hallmark of the spring season.

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