Easter Madness Takes Manhattan

Every Easter, New York natives and tourists gather on Fifth Avenue for the annual Easter Parade. The parade is less of an organized march and more of a stroll to see and be seen. Bonnets feature everything from bunny ears to bee hives. Men sport straw boaters and bedazzled top hats, and pets get in on the action, too (reluctantly, by the looks of it).

The history of the parade dates back to the mid-1800s, when churchgoers would take to Fifth Avenue like a Paris fashion show runway after morning services. Locals would gather along the avenue to admire their latest attire. By the middle of the 20th century, more than million people would show up.

In the April, 9, 1955, issue of The Saturday Evening Post, writer Rufus Jarman explored the parade’s fanciful behavior in “Manhattan’s Easter Madness.” Jarman reported that the police would try to maintain some semblance or order, including the ouster of “poseurs in weird raiment and women wearing ridiculously exhibitionistic hats.”

But the mid-century paraders would not be denied. One woman’s hat featured “a model of the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, a troop of Roman soldiery and a live parakeet.” There were kids in space suits, dogs with pipes, and a man in a silver sombrero hawking trips to Mexico.

Jarman proclaimed the whole affair to be completely out-of-hand. The proof? “These things horrified even New Yorkers.”

First page of the article, "Manhattan's Easter Madness"
Read “Manhattan’s Easter Madness” by Rufus Jarman from the April 9, 1955, issue of the Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

Featured image: April 7, 1906 Easter cover by J.C. Leyendecker (©SEPS)