St. Catherine’s Day Hat Parade canceled for 2020

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The first St Catherine’s Day Hat Parade in 2010 travels down St. Charles Ave. (Sabree Hill, Uptown Messenger archive)

The annual St. Catherine’s Day Hat Parade, held in the Garden District on the Sunday before Thanksgiving for the past decade, has been postponed due to concerns about the spreading COVID-19 virus.

This year the walking parade and celebration would have been on Sunday, Nov. 22. In past years, the hat-wearing participants meet in the pocket park at St. Charles Avenue and Pleasant Street. The parade goes down St. Charles, and turns onto Washington, Prytania, Louisiana and then back onto St. Charles to the starting place.

Marchers create their own hats, or just add decoration to an existing hat. According to its website: “There will be a wide variety of hats in our New Orleans version of the Catherinettes parade. If you have the time to make something special, that’s great, but if not, just grab a pretty hat from your own closet — or a silly hat from your Halloween stash — and join us!”

Lily Virginia Filson enjoys a glass of champagne before the parade. (Sabree Hill, Uptown Messenger archive)

The celebration includes live music and a champagne toast. There is always a prize for the best handmade hat, and the winner officiates as the following parade’s grand marshal.

The Feast of St. Catherine is celebrated on Nov. 25 in honor of the early Christian martyr, the patron saint of milliners, seamstresses and unmarried women.

In France, unmarried women, called Catherinettes, are traditionally the focus of St. Catherine’s Day events, and Parisian milliners use the occasion to show off their wares in a street parade, where marchers wear unusual chapeaux using St. Catherine’s colors: yellow (faith) and green (wisdom). The hats range from pretty to silly to elegant to bizarre.

As an affirmation of its French heritage, the hat parade has been re-created in Uptown New Orleans, and is featured in the Wikipedia description of St. Catherine’s Day.

The celebration is scheduled to resume in 2021 on Nov. 21, so people have plenty of time to get their hats ready.

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