Saturday, March 22, 2014

Easter--Only in My Memories, Vintage Easter

Easter used to be part of my life as a practicing Catholic. I have not gone to an Easter Sunday mass since I was in high school. I can't say I miss the religious services for Easter because I don't. Instead, I miss the rather kitschy stuff that one needs to look back in time to experience anew. Thus, I can remember the hats, of course.  It was a key part of Easter. These are a representative sampling of the hats available to us in the 1960s for Easter. We bought them at department stores which no longer exist, called Halle's, Higbee's and the May Co. My mother was very stylish and managed to wear most of these. I only managed the upper left one and black pillbox on the yellow Chanel jacket.

There were more avant garde hats that I studied eagerly in Vogue but I can't say that I saw anyone wear these to our Church. Although Cleveland was a good place to shop, the more extreme looks never made it here.  As a young adult I would have liked to try all of these but the upper left is my favorite with the bird cage being my second favorite.

The old movies that we watched from the 1930s and 1940s help fuel fantasies and memories, especially films like The Easter Parade and Meet Me In St. Louis. That's why I've gone way back and found vintage images for Easter

What to me was even better was the thought of the Easter bonnet in more romantic and nostalgic eras. The couple on the upper left could not possibly be more romantic for an Easter pairing.

Here are more vintage Easter images with many great bonnets. I especially love the huge black bonnet to the upper left. There is a funny image too, of a family of the 1950s with the Dad getting out of Easter services, while the family in its finery parades behind him (lower left). My Dad likewise got out of the services because he was not Catholic.

I loved these pictures of the women in the Easter eggs. I suppose these might be considered sexist today but I think they are lovely. It was obviously a tradition with the egg from that time.

In our time, my grandmother made these great Easter baskets filled with wonderful eggs, chocolates, candies and bunnies for my sister and me. My sister continued this tradition with her own children.My grandmother also kept alive the dietary restrictions. In honor of him, we were supposed to forego meat and our final non-meat meal was squid spaghetti on Holy Saturday because we were Italian- American.  Other ethnic groups picked other ethnic dishes. There were other symbols of easter, such as the dyeing of the Easter eggs, something I enjoyed as a budding artist. Easter also first introduced me to white flowers which I later discovered are such a prize in the art world. This was the Easter Lily, a very grand flower which is only eclipsed by its relative, the Calla Lily.

As for the purpose of Easter itself, the resurrection of Christ, we now are allowed to say that these may or may not be stories instead of absolute truth. Back then we weren't. So everyone seemingly believed in the entire Easter story. No matter which side of the fence you are on today, the Easter story is rousingly dramatic. Holy Thursday was the beginning of the end with the Last Supper during which Christ is betrayed by by the apostle Judas. Pontius Pilate washes his hands over the crucifixion which takes place on Good Friday. Each Catholic church had its own Stations of the Cross and you could follow along. Then there's the crypt on Saturday and the rising from the dead and ascent straight into heaven on Sunday.  The final image shows Christ emerging from the crypt and then ascending in a vertical position straight up into heaven, above.

Then Charlton Heston made Ben-Hur. It was released in 1959 and became the Easter movie from that point forward. Most of us remember that movie for the chariot race but there was another part of the movie which followed the entire Easter weekend. Christ cures his mother and sister of leprosy as the family follows him over that weekend. Another aspect to Ben-Hur, which I didn't get, being 11 years old when it came out, was the gay aspect attraction of Masala (Stephen Boyd) and Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston). I didn't realize it until years later when I began reading film criticism. Frankly, I wonder if the people behind the camera didn't keep this aspect a secret from Charlton Heston, who certainly had never attached himself to any liberal or gay issue at any other time in his life. He rather liked being seen as Moses or Ben-Hur and, lastly as the living icon of the NRA. Who knows, maybe I will dig out my copy of Ben-Hur to revisit the holiday this year.

This year FabergĂ© is running its gala artist Easter Egg extravaganza.  You can see its art eggs here.  I also assembled some of them into collages, shown below.

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