NY's Easter parade tradition both elegant and zany

Associated Press Modified: April 24, 2011 at 10:41 pm •  Published: April 24, 2011

He said activists are challenging the Roman Catholic Church "to live up to its doctrine of social justice" — by accepting marriage between gay partners.

New York's archbishop has repeatedly voiced his opposition, saying same-sex couples are no more entitled to wed than he would be to marry his own mother.

The subject did not come up during Dolan's homily Sunday. He offered a message of rebirth reflecting the Biblical account of Christ's crucifixion and resurrection.

"The word this morning is one of light and hope and life and faith and newness and mercy and decency and goodness," the archbishop told worshippers.

The parade tradition began as a 19th century gathering of New York's social elite in their Easter best after church services — along with similar parades around the nation that took off after the Civil War. New York's version has become a semi-secular feast.

"This was once for rich New Yorkers, but it's morphed into all kinds of people having a good time," said Barry Brown, 39, who works for a New York nonprofit organization.

He started building his Easter hat at home in Jersey City, N.J., with friends who get together each year for what he calls a "craft brunch with mimosas" a few weeks before Easter.

Perched on Brown's head was the whole "Little Mermaid" story: a sea witch encircled by a sea snake, with the Little Mermaid's sisters hanging from the brim of the hat — "I bought them on eBay for 99 cents!"

Easter Sunday was no joke for Emma Giudicelli, 9, visiting with her parents from Antibes, France.

"It's a religious feast," she said seriously in her native tongue. But "I don't know why," she added.

A Jewish schoolteacher from Israel said she and her husband attended two Christian services in New York over the Easter weekend.

"It was more interesting than going to a synagogue, which we know," said Eliron Bazarsky-Jarosch of Rehovot, Israel.