Remember the New Easter Dress (N.E.D.) tradition? My mom was a big believer. When I was little, every Easter she not only had pretty new dresses for me and my sisters, she also got us glossy patent-leather shoes. (White. They had to be white.) Plus a Sunday hat and—picture this—gloves. Tight little white gloves. Decked out for Easter we were.
More than one of our old family movies (think grainy, jumpy, and b/w) could be titled “The Horner Family Annual Easter Fashion Show.” Dad would film us five kids as one by one we came out the front door and down the ‘runway’ (sidewalk) to the car for church. Must say, we were a good-looking bunch. Even as a preschooler, I knew there was something special about Easter.
One N.E.D. I remember well. I think I was 10 or 11, I don’t know. It was brownish-pink pleated skirt with a complementary flow-y, flowery top. I wore that sweet combo only once, because that Sunday after the big Easter meal, I went outside to play . . . sat on a skateboard to ride it down the driveway . . . the back of my skirt wound up in the wheels . . . the concrete gashed those pleats irreparably. . . Oh, well.
I continued the N.E.D. tradition when I became a mom. One Easter morning, my ilttle Daughter 1 woke up with a feverish rash. She couldn’t go to church, of course, but she asked to wear her new dress. I can still picture it, the pitiful 3 y.o. dear, curled up on the couch, in her pink and white cotton dress.
Two years later we moved to Bolivia. The tradition of getting new Easter clothes died quickly. It seemed showy, extravagant, wrong, even, in that world.
Now it’s 35 years later and I’ve continue to dismiss the N.E.D tradition as materialistic.
Til last week.
For some reason I started thinking about my mom and those hats and gloves and wishing I could talk to her about it. Why was that custom so important to her? Did she get new Easter clothes as a Canadian child? Or was the tradition American Baptist? When did this practice start?
I can’t talk to my mom (She went to God.) but I found out that having new clothes at Easter started in America after the devastation of the Civil War. For Christians Easter was a source of hope. It was called ‘The Sunday of Joy” and women traded the dark clothes of winter for spring colors, to celebrate Jesus’ life after death.
The special Easter clothes helped people display the gratitude and hope they felt in their souls, a public demonstration of real faith in Jesus.
My mom knew that. Like I said, she was a big believer– not just in the N.E.D. tradition, but in Jesus Christ Himself. Getting new Easter clothes for herself and her children expressed her faith and joy in Him.
This morning my Lenten reading closed with this question: What would God have you do this week to prepare for the joy of resurrection that awaits you on Sunday?
I’m thinking about going to the mall and reviving the N.E.D. tradition.