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Easter Parade, Mass At St. Patrick's Among Midtown Traditions

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Christians around the city and the world marked the holiest day on their calendar on Easter Sunday, and Midtown was packed with Catholics headed to Saint Patrick's Cathedral for Mass and hat lovers headed to the Easter Parade and Bonnet Festival.

The Catholic cathedral was packed with worshippers observing the day they believe Jesus Christ rose from the dead, two days after his crucifixion. Many people from across the country waited in line to enter the church.

"It's a beautiful cathedral and we're all Catholic, so it means a lot to us," said Judith Allender, a visitor from Florida.

During his homily, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the leader of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, compared the cathedral itself and the construction it is undergoing to the meaning of the Easter.

"I kind of thought this cathedral, you can't miss it, everybody knows it. You're tripping over all of the scaffolding. I thought, hey, not a bad backdrop, maybe a good reminder on audio-visual aid on what Easter is all about," Dolan said. "That's what Jesus wants to do for us inside -- renew, restore and repair."

Before ending Mass, the cardinal gave a nod to another Easter celebration taking place right in front of the doorsteps of his church.

"We're going to go outside and see all the people on Fifth Avenue, the Easter parade, and once again I hope I win the honor of the most unique Easter bonnet," Dolan said.

When it came to the annual Easter Parade and Bonnet Festival, taking place Sunday on Fifth Avenue from 49th and 57th Streets, the wackier headgear got the loudest acclaim from the crowds.

The tradition dates back to the mid-1800s, when high society sported the latest fashions and marched down the avenue. Nowadays, the gathering is more informal, and participants largely make their own unique hats.

Jessica Nickerson, who wore a large-brimmed sun hat covered in flowers, said, "We always have a garden and we love flowers, so we just put flowers. But we also each have a hidden Easter egg somewhere on our hats. So if you're looking carefully, you can find a little Easter egg up there."

Another woman's large hat resembled a large white building topped with several flags and a picture of Pope Francis, the newly elected leader of the Catholic Church.

"I'm really happy because I'm representing the Catholic Church and you see, we are so happy with the new pope," the woman said. "The last one, Benedict XVI, was very good too, but he's the one now and he's the one we needed."

Spectators cameras' flashed nonstop, turning parade participants into celebrities of sorts.

"I'm enjoying it. People are very friendly," said Doris Watlington, who wore a hat topped with red ribbons and white feathers.

City songwriter Irving Berlin wrote a song about the parade, "Easter Bonnet," which in turn inspired a 1948 film of the same name starring Judy Garland and Fred Astaire.

Riverside Church Holds Musical Easter Service

Meanwhile, congregants of all faiths gathered at historic Riverside Church in Manhattan's Morningside Heights for its Easter Sunday service.

The 170-year-old interdenominational church brought in a brass band and the choir prepared special music.

"We attend Easter service every year, and we try to go to a different church every year, although we came last year and enjoyed it a lot and so we're back," said Nancy Sergeant, a participant.

"I grew up in Virginia and live in North Carolina right now. I'm just really excited to worship at Riverside. It's a church that has a lot of special significance for our country," said Brian Bills, another participant.

"The pastor, the preacher, myself, needs to come with a word that helps make that ancient story of resurrection come alive itself, so that it isn't lying dead on the pages of history, but begins to emerge as possibility and love in the present," said the Reverend Stephen Phelps, Riverside's interim senior minister.

A Knights of Columbus-Marist College poll found that 6 in 10 Americans had plans to attend church on Easter Sunday.

Christians who follow the Julian calendar, including Eastern Orthodox, Russian Orthodox and Coptic Christians, will celebrate Easter on May 5.

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