Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Significance of Parades During Easter

      The Easter parades in America are cultural events consisting of a festive strolling procession on Easter Sunday. Typically, these are somewhat informal and unorganized events, with or without religious significance. Persons participating in an Easter parade traditionally dress in new and fashionable clothing, particularly ladies' hats, and strive to impress others with their finery. The Easter parade is most closely associated with Fifth Avenue in New York City, but Easter parades are held in many other cities. Starting as a spontaneous event in the 1870s, the New York parade became increasingly popular into the mid-20th century—in 1947, it was estimated to draw over a million people. Its popularity has declined significantly, drawing only 30,000 in 2008.
      Easter processions or parades, often including special dress, have been part of Christian culture since its earliest beginnings. The special dress was originally worn to show respect for the event by the participants. However, in our contemporary American culture, Easter parades in large cities such as New York are now primarily attended by people who wish to show off manifestations of those customs and traditions that have little to do with the church or congregants observing the suffering of Jesus. The New York Easter Parade has evolved into an parade similar to those celebrated at Marti Gras, that is a time designated for excessive party going and public display. During Marti Gras, this display is in keeping with the context of the original holiday's design unlike those celebrations that misrepresent the occasion of the crucifixion of Jesus.
      The Bible records two processions in the first Holy Week. The first was on Palm Sunday as Jesus was welcomed to Jerusalem by an adoring throng. Gate of Mercy * The Gates of Jerusalem * Golden Gate, Jerusalem *
      The second took place as Jesus carried a cross to Calvary. These processions are often commemorated in Christian church services, and are seen as the earliest predecessors of Easter parades during the early 20th century. A procession of cross-bearers by Sprugeon (PDF) ********

XXVI Jornada Mundial de la Juventud católica. Procesión Cristo Buena Muerte y Ánimas de Málaga por calle Arenal de Madrid. El excelente y admirable desfile de la Legión española, con dos escuadras de gastadores, Banda de Guerra y una compañía, fue de los actos más destacados, aportando notable españolidad, elegancia y seriedad.

Facts about parades associated with Easter throughout Christendom:
  • During the Dark Ages, Christians in Eastern Europe would gather in a designated spot before Easter church services, then walk solemnly to the church. Sometimes the congregation would form another parade after the services, retracing their steps and singing songs of praise. These processions had two purposes—to demonstrate to churchgoers the unity of spirit found in their faith, and to reach out to nonbelievers in a highly visible manner. Even in those times, participants wore their finest attire to show respect for the occasion.
  • In the Middle Ages, the clergy expanded these processions into teaching tools. Paintings and statues would be placed along city streets, where church members could walk from one to another to see all the "stations of the cross." To a public that had no access to the Bible and often could not understand the Latin language in which church services were conducted, these special processions were a means to understanding their faith.
  • Other parades have been held on important days during and close to Lent. An example can be found in today's parades on Mardi Gras. Beginning about 1782, German settlers in Pennsylvania held non-religious parades on Easter Monday, then widely celebrated as a holiday. The parades continued for over a century.
  • In the Philippines, communities re-enact Jesus' triumphal entry with a procession. A statue of Christ on the donkey or the officiating priest mounted on horse process around or towards the local church, surrounded by palm-bearing churchgoers. In some towns, elderly women spread heirloom "aprons" (made for this sole purpose) or large cloths along the procession route in imitation of the Jerusalemites. Children dressed as angels sometimes sing the Osana ("Hosanna") whilst strewing flowers about. Once blessed, the ornately woven palaspas (palm branches), are taken home by the faithful and are placed on altars or hung beside, on or above doorways and windows.
  • The Via Dolorosa (Latin,"Way of Grief", "Way of Suffering" or simply "Painful Way") is a street, in two parts, within the Old City of Jerusalem, held to be the path that Jesus walked, carrying his cross, on the way to his crucifixion. The winding route from the Antonia Fortress west to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre — a distance of about 600 metres (2,000 feet) — is a celebrated place of Christian pilgrimage. The current route has been established since the 18th century, replacing various earlier versions. It is today marked by nine Stations of the Cross; there have been fourteen stations since the late 15th century, with the remaining five stations being inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Each Friday, a Roman Catholic procession walks the Via Dolorosa route, starting out at the monastic complex by the first station; the procession is organized by the Franciscans of this monastery, who also lead the procession. Acted re-enactments also regularly take place on the route, ranging from amateur productions with, for example, soldiers wearing plastic helmets and vivid red polyester wraps, to more professional drama with historically accurate clothing and props.
  • The Holy Fire (Greek Ἃγιον Φῶς, "Holy Light") is described by Orthodox Christians as a miracle that occurs every year at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on Great Saturday, or Holy Saturday, the day preceding Orthodox Easter. It is considered by many to be the longest-attested annual miracle in the Christian world. It has been consecutively documented since 1106 A.D., with previous references being sporadic. This is not an "organized" parade but it still is considered a spontaneous, traditional event that becomes a type of parade as the flames are passed from person to person down the city streets. The event commemorates the Pentecost.
  • Authorities attribute the introduction of elaborate Easter ceremonies, including gaudy dress and display of personal finery, to the Roman Emperor Constantine I in the early part of the 4th century, when he "ordered his subjects to dress in their finest and parade in honor of Christ's resurrection." Having new clothes for Easter had deep roots in European customs. Sacred times called for special forms of dress—material markers of holiness and celebration. Distinctive garb for Easter, like one's "Sunday best" and the special vestments of priests, for centuries showed the solemnity and sacredness of the season.
Examples of Christian Easter Processions Around The Globe: "Following the Cross" on the island of Hvar * The "Procession of the Risen Christ," Easter evening * Easter and Holy Week * How do we use a paschal candle? * Easter: Palm Fronds, Processions and Some Seriously Colorful and Pointy Hats * St. John Baptist Church Brings Easter Celebration to Forsyth Park* The Palm Sunday Peace Parade: An Annual Tradition *

 Easter Parade photographs are from the New York Daily Tribune, 1908

The Trata, Or Ancient "Choros" Dance, at Megara, Greece, on Easter Tuesday. Participated in by all the young girls of a marriageable age. It is considered as an announcement that they are in the market for husbands. A sort of debut into society.
Blessing The Public Water Supply At Athens, Greece. This ceremony conducted annually by gorgeously robed priests, taken place about Easter time and calls out all, from royalty to the poorest beggar.
Easter in Seville, Spain. Sumptuously image of the Virgin, set in a forest of candles, is borne through the crowded streets.
Easter Parade in Fifth Avenue. One of the traditional Easter sights in America.

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