Easter is the greatest holiday in the Christian church year, and in the 1950’s the tradition of dressing up in you finest new clothes at Eastertime was the norm. As a matter of fact, the tradition dates back many centuries.
According to the book “The Whole Earth Holiday” the tradition began when early Christian converts were baptized at Easter and then given new white robes to wear for eight days. The Emperor Constantine ordered his subjects to dress in their finest clothes and parade in honor of Christ’s resurrection.
That tradition of dressing up at Easter, attending the Easter parade, and men’s suits, and women with hats and gloves are all gone now, things of the past. Now Easter mass is no different than any other Sunday. You will see people in shorts, jeans, flip-flops, and tee shirts.
As a youngster, I remember on my birthday every year (in February, during or near lent), I would always receive some article of clothing as a gift. Whether it was a sweater, a new shirt, pair of pants or a jacket, as I opened the gift, my mother would say, “Save it for Easter!”
Later that day, my aunt would see my birthday gift and would proclaim, “Anthony, that’s a nice sweater, save it for Easter!” All throughout the day, when family would see my birthday gift, I would hear the same response.
I never realized why it was so important to them that I wear something new at Easter mass.
Now, as an adult I realize how important Easter was to my blue collar and very Catholic family. This was THE holiday of the year! And the banquet of food that we would enjoy after mass was unbelievable. Everything was the best, the best clothes, best food, and best celebration, because we were celebrating the resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. This was NO ordinary Sunday.
Think about it, if it wasn’t for the resurrection, our Christian faith would not exist. As Saint Paul says in First Corinthians,
If there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then empty (too) is our preaching, empty, too, your faith. …And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:13-14 17
And that is cause for celebration, the reason to put on best clothes, to celebrate the Lord’s resurrection, the reason for our faith!
Tomorrow, let’s leave the shorts, flip-flops, and blue jeans at home. Take the tags off that new sweater in your closet, let’s celebrate Easter as the most important day of the year.
My mom and my aunts are gone now, but to this day, my wife makes sure that on my birthday, I always receive something that I can “save for Easter.”
He is Risen, Alleluia! Have a blessed Easter!
Reference: The Whole Earth Holiday Book, Linda Polon, Good Year Books 17.95