When I was a child, Easter wasn’t about renewal, resurrection or even chocolate eggs - it was about one thing only- WINNING THE EASTER BONNET PARADE!
I love this time of year. Not just because everything is springing to life again after the rude ravages of winter, but because it always reminds me of one of my earliest creative endeavours - the design and build of one of the most important accessories known to mankind - the Easter Bonnet!
As frivolous and unwieldly as these objects of desire could be when finally completed (and, how utterly unimportant parading around in one for a paltry prize of a handful of Cadbury's creme eggs may seem to many), the annual Easter Bonnet Parade, down at the local Working Mens Club, was one of the few times in the calendar year that literally got me creatively salivating. This was largely because every bonnet I ever made resembled a ginormous multi-tiered wedding cake, and as a child I seemed to lurch from one hunger pang to another, so the thought of making a never-ending, sky-scraping, gateau-style bonnet was tantalising, even if it was only made of inedible cardboard and fluffy pom-poms.
Below, you can find me proudly modelling one of my fabulous creations, but I will confess, it's actually one that I 'just' made (at an age I won't divulge) and cut and paste onto a school photo of me aged around seven. The truth is, I don't have any pics of me in my bonnets, because I usually forced one of my poor, unsuspecting brothers to wear them - but it is the kind of thing I made back then, only my childhood creations contained more fluffy pom pom chicks and lots more felt tip pen embellishments.
To say I was zealous about winning the Easter parade is probably an understatement. Apart from a few creme eggs, I can't even remember what the prize was most years, but that wasn't the point, winning was the point! And I did win one year, as far as I remember, but which of my unsuspecting brothers had the honour of wearing the winning bonnet I don’t know. In their adult masculinity it’s probably not something they wish to recall either.
Eventually though, I finally opted out with my inner artist crying, 'It's a fix, it's a fix', after the competition was won several years on the trot by entrants wearing Tonka Toys on their heads and various other brands of trucks and toys that had nothing at all to do with Easter as far as I could see.
Making An Easter Bonnet
Browsing the internet though, it’s clear that despite the digital age, this magnificent Easter tradition shows no sign of abating. It’s as popular as ever, and I for one am very pleased. I’m still a sucker for handy crafts - and now, thanks to the hundreds of Pound shops littering the UK’s high streets, there’s no reason not to have a go yourself, because it’s cheaper than chips, or at least a curry sauce. You don’t even have to go scraping around for odd and ends like we did as kids and putting vinegar in felt-tip pens to keep them going a bit longer either.
So if you haven’t tried your hand yet, or even if you’ve missed your local Easter Parade (you didn’t know they existed? Look around there’ll be one near you), there’s still time to gather up some bunnies and braids and make your very own masterpiece just in time to model in front of your ’oh so appreciative, and perhaps rather mocking family’ over Easter Sunday or Monday lunch.
Crying, ‘But I don’t know how to make a pom pom, so how could
I ever create an Easter chick or ten’, is frankly no excuse.
If you don’t know how, here’s the instructions. So go on, don’t be a Easter Scrooge, get down and get crafty.
How to make a pom pom
Create two circular discs the same size with a hole in the centre, like a doughnut.
Place them together then bind wool around the discs, through the centre until the circle is full of wool.
Cut the outer edge all the way around with scissors and slightly pull the discs apart.
Tie a piece of wool in the gap, around all the strands, and remove the discs, trimming off any strays strands.
Voila! Un Pom Pom! Hence many chicks for your bonnet.
How The Easter Bonnet Came Into Being
I don't blame you if you're suddenly eager to know, where did this strange and yet rather wonderful idea to parade about with all sorts of quirky paraphernalia on one’s head spring from?
Well, according to the ever faithful Wikipedia, the Easter bonnet emerged from a tradition of wearing new clothes at Easter to symbolise renewal and redemption. This apparently arose from a belief during the 18th and 19th centuries that bad luck might befall those who did not have new clothes at Easter. Amazing what the odd crazy superstition can bring about!
The Easter Parade itself, seems to date back to the 1870’s when New York citizens took to the streets to model their best bonnets in an annual walk down Fifth Avenue, and hence this delightful tradition was born. The parade was then forever etched in our hearts and minds in 1933, when the American songwriter and composer, Irving Berlin, wrote a song about it.
Here’s a little taste of the lyrics just in case you want to sing them to yourself when creating your next bonnet masterpiece:
‘In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it,
You'll be the grandest lady in the Easter parade’.
Despite my youth, and having never heard the song, you can no doubt see from my best bonnet attempts, I obviously aspired to become ‘the grandest lady in the Easter parade’. And with that, I wish you a happy bonnet-making Easter. Hope you lay lots of creative eggs.