Sunday, 5 April 2015
Traditions and Superstitions: New Clothing at Easter
A chocolate egg bigger than my head – that’s what hubs gave me this Easter. He knows the way to my heart! Aside from the importance of Easter as a religious festival, it is also associated with chicks, chocolate, and in previous century….new clothes.
Traditionally, Easter was linked to the wearing of new clothes. Although this was also linked to other times of the year such as New Year and Christmas day, with its symbolism of renewal and rebirth, Easter was a key time to start afresh with new garments.
This tradition was mentioned in 1662 when Samuel Pepys wrote in his dairy about getting new clothes for his wife “against Easter”. Previous to this, Shakespeare hints at the importance in Romeo and Juliet, 1597, when Mercutio asks, “Didst though not fall out with a tailor for wearing his new doublet before Easter?”
Apart from anything else, it seems one penalty if you didn’t respect this superstition was that you ran the risk of being fouled upon by a bird.
“It is deemed essential by many people to wear some new article of dress, if only a pair of gloves or a new ribbon; for not to do so is considered unlucky; and the birds will be angry with you.” Writings from 1911
This is borne out by Burne, writing in 1883
“…he used to look out anxiously for rooks on Easter Day, and run to shelter if he heard on cawing, in spite of his mother’s habitual care to provide each of her family with some new garment for Easter wearing.”
The wearing of new clothes on Easter Sunday, also ties into to other superstitions regarding garments. There was a strong superstition that to be lucky, new clothes should first be worn to church for a sort of “blessing”. The consequence was to call bad luck upon your head.
“You must be careful not to put on any new article of clothing for the first time on a Saturday, …or some severe punishment will ensue. One person put on his new boots on a Saturday, and on Monday broke his arm.“ Jefferies. 1889
But if you couldn’t afford new, but bought second hand clothes, there was a way to counteract any lingering back luck. If you bought a garment which contained money in a pocket, this ensured prosperity for the rest of the year. Seemingly those selling second hand clothes cottoned on fast and learnt that simply by placing a small coin in the pocket they could inflate the price of the garment for sale!