Easter Parade and Bonnet Festival in New York City

Annual Easter Parade Held on New York 5th Avenue
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On Easter Sunday, the streets of Manhattan come alive with spring colors and flowery bonnets as part of the annual Easter Parade and Bonnet Festival. Visitors and residents alike have the opportunity to see "paraders" wander along Fifth Avenue from 49th to 57th Streets, and the area around St. Patrick's Cathedral is the ideal place to see all the festivities, which run from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.

Unlike most New York City Parades, the Easter Parade is a far less organized event; visitors in town during Easter will enjoy stopping by the area for a bit during the festivities, but seeing the various Easter bonnets and costumed pets are probably only worth a short visit.

Still, people from around the world come to New York City to participate, and their outfits for the day's festivities range from elegant to outrageous, making for quite the spectacle for tourists to witness. From those accented with live animals to Civil War period costumes and the latest high fashions, there is a little bit of everything for the parade viewer. Many kids and groups also participate by creating unique Easter bonnets and themed costumes.

Easter Bonnets on Display at New York's Annual Easter Parade
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History of the Easter Parade

This annual tradition has been taking place in New York City for over 130 years, and while some things have changed, some traditions remain steadfast.

For instance, although the Easter Parade in 1900 didn't have any floats or marching bands, the tradition of dressing up for the event started back in the 1880s when women would wear their finest hats and dresses and decorate the churches with flowers to celebrate the day.

From the 1880s through the 1950s, the New York City Easter Parade was one of the largest cultural expressions in America to celebrate the holiday and a spectacle of fashion and religious observance of the time. However, as the years went on, the Easter Parade became less about religion and more about extravagance and American prosperity.

Today, the Easter Parade combines these traditions by incorporating the annual Bonnet Festival into the parade as a celebration of decadence and prosperity and by hosting events at St. Patrick's Cathedral in observance of the religious customs of Easter.

People attend the Annual Easter parade in New York
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Easter Services at St. Patrick's Cathedral

If you're attending the Easter Bonnet Festival and Parade, you might want to enjoy an Easter Service at St. Patrick's Cathedral since it's right along the parade route and since attending Mass at this famous cathedral is just as important of a tradition in NYC as attending the parade itself.

St. Patrick's Cathedral has a number of Easter Masses and Holy Week services, including eight on Easter Sunday, and while only the 10:15 a.m. Mass requires tickets, the others are open to the public. If you want tickets to the reservation-only Easter Mass you have to send a letter to St. Patrick's Cathedral in January requesting your reservation, and there is a two-ticket per person limit.

Other churches for Easter Service near the parade route include Saint Thomas Church on 53rd Street and 5th Avenue and the 5th Avenue Presbyterian Church at 55th Street and 5th Avenue.