Tens of thousands of New Yorkers jammed Fifth Avenue in New York City Sunday morning for the city's annual Easter festivities that included crowded services in the street's three major churches, hundreds dressed in elaborate Easter outfits and Easter bonnets, and thousands more just wandering the thoroughfare to take it all in.
I was one of those taking advantage of one of the few times in the year Fifth Avenue is closed to vehicular traffic and becomes a festive pedestrian walkway from Central Park at 59th Street down to 49th street. It was a street of contrasts with hundreds standing line to buy the new iPads at the glass-walled Apple store near 59th to those in their Easter finery at St. Thomas Episcopal, Fifth Avenue Presbyterian and St. Patrick's Catholic churches farther south.
There were more women in colorful Easter dresses than men in suits, although most wore "business casual" as we like to say. That's much different from only a decade ago when the dress code for churchgoers was much more formal.
New York's Easter Parade, first begun in 1870 but immortalized in 1933 by Irving Berlin's hit song "Easter Parade" and later Fred Astaire's musical with the same name, is really not a parade at all. There are no floats, marching bands or tall balloons as found in Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade here. Nevertheless, people come from all over to watch and participate, wearing top hats, flowered hats with real flowers on top, some with hats with bird nests and others with fashionable bonnets reminiscent of early America and the Puritans.
The crowds were heaviest in front of St. Patrick's where the pews were packed for each of a series of masses, especially the late morning mass conducted by Archbishop Timothy Dolan of the New York Catholic diocese. Although there were a few protesters across Fifth Avenue, the thousands assembled in front of the church and along side streets applauded loudly as the archbishop appeared outside after the 11:15 a.m. mass.
He commented only briefly on the priest abuse scandals now rocking the Catholic Church in Ireland and mainland Europe, saying the New York diocese had long since moved on from any local concerns.
By 1 p.m., it was all over and the street was re-opened, although there wasn't much left to do since all the main Fifth Avenue stores were closed for Easter. Except Apple, where hundreds still stood in lines to buy the new iPads.