I have loved dolls, history, and the Victorian Era since I was little and can credit my grandmother for that. As a young girl she gave me a Godey’s Fashion print for August 1870 from my great, great Aunt Flossie. I was captivated by the dresses and became hooked. I just love to research everything and anything about the Victorian Era. I also love to design Victorian dolls. I hope you enjoy my Victorian Dolls, Victorian Traditions,The Victorian Era, and Me blog.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Happy Easter

Easter - the end of the winter and the beginning of spring. What a wonderful time of the year. When I think of Easter I think of Easter outfits, Easter baskets, church services, and Easter lilies.

My favorite, of course, is Victorian Easter dresses. Second to that is the Easter lily. I can remember coming home each Easter from church with an Easter Lily. I loved them then and I love them now. In fact, I have a garden filled with them along with tiger lilies, daffodils, tulips and day lilies.

The reason my garden is filled with them is because each Easter my Mother brings one to me . After the blooms are gone I plant it in my garden. That way, every year I get to marvel at the sheer beauty and delicacy of its blooms. They are magnificent.

The lily is a symbol of purity because of its whiteness and very delicate form. It symbolizes innocence. It's called the Easter lily because the flowers bloom in early Spring, around Easter. The white lily, or Bermuda trumpet, was brought to the United States from Bermuda in 1880 by Mrs. Thomas P. Sargent of Philadelphia, Pa. It has become the mainstay of Easter floral arrangements and church decorations.

If you have an Easter lily or have been given one make sure that you plant it in your garden. That way you'll see it bloom time and time again. So, each year you can't help but marvel at its magnificence.

We hope everyone has a very Happy Easter.

Graphics - Courtesy of Becky at www.primsandstems.com

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

"In Your Easter Bonnet, With All The Frills Upon It....."

If you are a baby boomer, like I am, then you probably have many fond memories associated with dressing up in your finest attire (hopefully, new clothes) for Easter Day. I know that I do.

On of my favorite Easter Day pictures is the one to the left. The picture is of my mother, father, older brother, younger sister and younger brother just before going to church on Easter Day. I was taking the picture.

You might be wondering why it's one of my favorites. Well, just look at my older brother's smile - or grimace might be a better description.

And, then, of course there's my mother's hat. It was this big, white, floral, lace, ribbon concoction. Oh, sorry, mom. I meant hat. It was lovely... WINK! WINK!

Every time I look at this picture and my mother's hat I can't help but think about the words from Irving Berlin's 1948 song "Easter Parade."

"In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it
You'll be the grandest gal in the Easter parade.
I'll be all in Glover, and when they look us over
We'll be the proudest couple in the Easter parade."

If you're a reader of my Linda's Blog then you know that I just love historical traditions. So, of course this got me to thinking about the tradition of Easter clothes and the Easter parade. Where and when did this all begin? Where did the wearing of new clothes come from?

Early Christians believed the week before Easter was a good time to be baptized and called it "White Week." They dressed in new white robes, which they wore during the entire Easter week to symbolize their rebirth and new life. People who had been baptized previously wore new clothes on Easter to symbolize they shared in this rebirth and new life.

Subsequently, Europeans came to believe that a new piece of clothing on Easter Sunday would bring good luck. Old or used garments would bring a year of misfortune. So new clothes became a symbol of Easter. It's unbelievable how many traditions we still have based upon superstition.

It wasn't until the Middle Ages that people in their new clothes began to take walks after their Easter service. This eventually evolved into the tradition of Easter Parades, of which New York's 5Th Avenue is probably the most famous.

After the Civil War Easter was known as the "Sunday of Joy." Women and girls who had worn dark colors of mourning during the war decided to start wearing the bright and wonderful colors of spring. Their hats were decorated with fresh flowers. If the fresh flowers weren't available then they would make flowers out of paper, fabric, ribbons, feathers, hairs, etc.

The Easter Parade in New York began in 1860 - the Victorian Era, of course. The elite of society would attend Easter Service at one of the churches along 5Th Avenue and then parade down 5Th Avenue afterwards to give every one a chance to view their new Easter hats and dresses. I would have loved to have seen that. Some of the dresses had to be absolutely gorgeous. And, of course, there were the hats.

The hats were elaborate and kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger with each passing year. Flowers, lace, bird's nests (that's something I definitely want in my hat), ribbons, etc. were all used to decorate the hats. The more elaborately decorated the hat, the better.

Of course, the first Easter bonnets were worn way before Easter was even celebrated. They weren't even bonnets at all. They were circles of wreaths of leaves and flowers and were worn atop the head to celebrate Spring. The round shape symbolized the sun and the life cycle.

In essence the Easter Parade along 5Th Avenue was the forerunner of what is known today as a "fashion show." Many seamstresses would bring their sketch pads with them to the Easter Parade so that they could go back and create knockoffs for their less wealthy clients.

Even as a child I loved Easter. Why? For me it had to do with my fascination for beautiful dresses. My mother would buy me the most beautiful little girl's dress for Easter. I'd have my hat or bonnet (of course), my black patent leather shoes, white lace socks (the tops had to be lace, of course), my white gloves (oh, yes I wore gloves), and my little purse. I don't remember what I carried in that purse. What possible needs did a little girl have. Maybe I kept my candy in there. In any event, as you can imagine I loved it.

The picture to the right is of my older brother and I on Easter Sunday. Just look at my dress. I actually remember that dress. The front bodice had the most beautiful smocking and there were several layers of tulle underneath to keep the skirt puffed out. If you've never worn a dress with tulle you can't imagine how itchy it was. If you look closely my hat was a headband adorned with flowers and I think I was carrying a lollipop. Maybe that's what I kept in my purse. My brother, of course, was all decked out in his finest too. We probably walked around our house for our Easter Parade.

Another fond memory I have of Easter attire is the first year I wore high heels. What a disaster that was. I never got the hand of it and still don't know how women wear them. I kept falling off the side of the high heels. For me, given that I'm a tall women, that was comical to say the least. So flats or shoes with wide heels became my shoes of choice.

As with many wonderful traditions, new Easter outfits are a thing of the past. Some people do buy new clothes and some places have Easter parades as a lark. For me, I will always have the fond memories of my beautiful Easter dresses, and then there's my mothers hat. That hat! She could have had an eagles nest in it. Just kidding, Mom. It was lovely... WINK! WINK!

Sunday, April 9, 2006

Who Doesn't Love Bunnies?

Who doesn't love cute, cuddly bunnies. Crafters and doll makers certainly do. When a crafter thinks of Easter or Spring they generally think bunnies and eggs. They've become a staple of Easter and Spring.

Why? Because like many other items crafters can do so many things with them. They can be Victorian, Primitive, Country, even Shabby Chic. They can be made of fur, cloth, wood, metal, just about anything. They can be colorful or bleak. They can have clothes or no clothes. They can be cuddly or firm. They can be standing, sitting, even hopping. They can be toys, dolls, knick-knacks, graphics, cartoons, candy, signs, pictures, etc. Just about anything you can imagine. The sky's the limit.

So, where did all the fascination and tradition of bunnies being associated with Easter and Spring begin. As with a lot of our traditions bunnies (or really, hares) have their origins in pre-Christian or pagan folklore. They served as symbols of abundant new life in the Spring. It was decided that Easter would always be the first Sunday following a full moon. So, since the moon was used to determine the date for Easter and the hare was the Egyptian symbol for the moon, hares became associated with Easter. Hares are nocturnal like the moon and carry their young for a month before giving birth, which is like the changing moon with its monthly full moon. It was also believed that the hare always kept its eyes open, watching the moon.

According to some pagan folklore, the Easter bunny was originally a large bird belonging to the goddess Eostre. To entertain her children she magically changed her favorite pet bird into a hare, which immediately laid colorful and magical eggs. So, because the Easter bunny was really a bird at heart he continued to build a straw nest and fill it with eggs.

Eggs were dyed and eaten during the Spring festivals in ancient Egypt, Greece, Persia, and Rome and were given as gifts to celebrate the coming of Spring. In all cultures the egg symbolizes the beginning of life or the universe. The early Christians didn't feel that the pagan custom of coloring eggs was harmful so they kept that pagan tradition and applied it to their own festivities. Some speculate that missionaries or Knights of the Crusades were responsible for bringing the coloring of eggs westward.

The earliest known reference to a modern Easter Bunny appears in German writings in 16th century Germany. In medieval times eggs were traditionally given at Easter to the servants. The first edible Easter bunnies were made in Germany during the early 1800's and were made of pastry and sugar.

In the 18Th century, German settlers brought the Easter Bunny tradition to America. The white Easter Bunny was called "Oschter Haws" or "Osterhase" and brought gifts of chocolate candy to good children. The children believed that if they were good the "Oschter Haws" would lay colorful eggs for them in a nest the children had built, which was usually a hat or bonnet that was placed in a secluded place like the barn or the garden.

Placing the hats or bonnets in secluded places eventually lead to the Easter Hunts. On Easter morning the children of the house would join together in a search for the eggs that the Easter Bunny had hidden while they were asleep.

By the 19Th century the Easter Hare became the Easter Rabbit. Plastic Easter eggs made their debut in the early 1960's with more than 1 million plastic eggs being purchased each year for Easter. American families would later change the tradition of the nest into using baskets and giving chocolate as well as money. And, today, we know how commercial all of this has become. Easter baskets are no longer just filled with candy eggs. It's amazing how a simple tradition has become such a commercial affair.

In any event, now you know why bunnies are associated with Easter and Spring. I suspect that crafters will continue with their love affair with bunnies for a long time to come. They're just so versatile. Besides, how can you not love a bunny? They're just so cute, so cuddly, so fuzzy, so warm, so....

Oh, here comes Peter Cottontail!
Hopping down the bunny trail,
Hippity hoppity, Happy Easter Day!"

Graphic courtesy of Becky at www.primsandstems.com