A New York City’s Easter

Charisse Jones, in a New York Times article summarizes Easter preparations in New York City, stating, “It is Eastertime. And so there will be a taste of Latin American tradition in the streets of East Harlem, where the faithful will walk the Way of the Cross. Many of Polish descent will not eat their kielbasa and bread without the blessing of their pastor. On Sunday, a church in Chinatown will be draped in banners of white and gold. And a Dominican woman named Ana will baptize her youngest child. All because they say He has risen.” 1

Archbishop Timothy Dolan led the Easter Sunday Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral on Sunday morning. Photo: Ginny Kosola/WCBS 880

Although the religious basics remain constant throughout the world, such as reflection and penance mentioned in the overview, different cultures adapt the holiday of Easter and put their own distinct twist on the aspect of the celebration by infusing unique traditions and customs. In the New York Times article referenced above, Rev. W. Franklyn Richardson, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Mount Vernon, states, “The central message of Easter is the same, but it picks up the clothing of the particular ethnic culture that it finds itself…It becomes the mission of the church to screen the message through whatever cultural context it’s in. That’s how it can be heard.”

I have personally observed that the longer a family has been living in the United States, the fewer traditions and customs are kept from their country of origin. Being from a very settled German/Italian family (fifth/fourth generation), my Easter celebrations lack the idiosyncratic traditions of more recent immigrants. Easter at my house consists of a more Americanized and commercialized nature. We color Easter eggs, give each other candy and flowers, go to mass, and eat dinner together. The only hint of cultural influence is the German sauerkraut and fresh ham standard my mom prepares every year. However, I have interviewed recently immigrated Greeks, Hispanics, and Polish people, and found their Easter Day celebrations and preparations to be unique. Click on the links on the bottom of the page for more information.

My Family on Easter Sunday. Photo: Joe Scala

One Easter celebration unique to New York City is the annual Easter Day Parade. Thousands of New Yorkers and tourists line the streets of Fifth Avenue from 44th

Gay Rights Activists Protest the Easter Parade. Photo: Shirley Hunter of LGBT Rights NYC

Street to 57th Street on Easter Sunday dressed in “bonnets both elegant and zany.” The festivities start off in a packed Saint Patrick’s Cathedral for Easter mass services. However, the religious aspect ends there as parade goers head out to show off, or to take pictures of an eccentric collection of homemade hats. The parade began in the 19th century. It originally consisted of the most wealthy New Yorkers who would gather in their “Easter best” after church services. Today, there are no restrictions or minimum incomes to attend the festive celebration. In fact, this year gay activists took to the picket lines, standing outside of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral protesting the Catholic church’s stance on homosexuality. 2

For a slideshow of pictures from this years parade, click here.

Greek Easter Traditions →
Hispanic Easter Traditions →
Polish Easter Traditions →

  1. Jones, Charisse. “Easter’s Coats of Many Colors; The Nuances of Culture Reflect the Ritual of Rebirth.” NYTimes.com. 1 Apr. 1994. Web. <http://www.nytimes.com/1994/04/01/nyregion/easter-s-coats-many-colors-nuances-culture-reflect-ritual-rebirth.html?src=pm>.
  2. Dobnik, Verena. “NYC Easter Parade Both Elegant and Zany.” NewsTimes.com – NewsTimes. Associated Press, 25 Apr. 2011. Web. <http://www.newstimes.com/news/article/NYC-Easter-parade-both-elegant-and-zany-1350335.php>.

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