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 the rotogravure
Oh, I could write a sonnet
About your Easter bonnet
And of the girl I’m taking to the Easter parade
– Irving Berlin, 1933
The Easter Parade is one of New York’s best-known and least understood holiday traditions. There are no floats, no marching bands, no reviewing stand, no check-in table, no starting spot or finish line. It’s not that kind of parade. In fact, there’s not much organization at all.
The event’s title stems from the use of “parade” as a verb meaning “to promenade in a public place, esp. in order to show off.” Every Easter Sunday, Fifth Avenue from 49th to 57th Streets (roughly the area between Rockefeller Center and Central Park) is closed to traffic for several hours while the paraders stroll along the pavement.
Anyone who wants to participate is free to join in at any time while the celebration is taking place. Street musicians, face painters, food vendors and others who want attention tend to show up, too.
But the focus of the parade is on ordinary people, specially dressed for the day, meandering up and down the street to greet each other, show off their outfits (particularly their “Easter bonnets”) and proudly pose for innumerable photographers and admirers.