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Celebrating Easter _ and creativity_ in New York with festive hats and whimsical costumes

  • Easter Parade.JPEG

    Dressed for the occasion, Paul Nagle, left, poses for photographs as he takes take part in the Easter Parade along New York's Fifth Avenue, Sunday, April 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg) (The Associated Press)

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    Dressed for the occasion, Sara Bender, left, and Gin Minsky, right, take part in the Easter Parade along New York's Fifth Avenue, Sunday, April 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg) (The Associated Press)

Some wore their Sunday best in New York's annual Easter Parade on Fifth Avenue, but others simply spruced up their St. Patrick's Day or Halloween outfits.

"That's what she wore for St. Patrick's Day," said Barbara Baicich as she scooped up her cockapoo — half spaniel, half poodle — in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Betsey Johnson, as the dog was named after the designer, was decked out in — what else? — an outfit inspired by Betsey Johnson.

"This is one of the best things to do in New York, there's so much creativity," said Baicich, a retired children's clothing designer who came with her husband from Queens to the cathedral where they were married.

In recent decades, the street gathering that started in the 1880s as a strolling display of Easter finery outside Fifth Avenue churches has morphed into a sort of costume circus.

On Sunday, a Long Island lawyer smoked a cigar with a carrot wrapped around it, and had carrot greens hanging from his jacket pockets.

There were also lots of bonnets piled high with bunny ears or eggs — made of silicone, polyester and felt — parading up and down the crowded, elbow-to-elbow avenue.

The zany scene didn't seem to bother people lined up to enter the cathedral, including Elizabeth Herrera in her new Easter dress and blossom-graced hat.

"Religion is what you make of it, and it's in your heart," she said, smiling at a group of people and pets in over-the-top garb.

"I dress this way because I grew up honoring the day, and it's like the passing of winter to spring — a celebration," said Herrera, 40, who works in digital marketing and lives in the Bronx. "It's part of my faith."

Inside the cathedral, Cardinal Timothy Dolan celebrated Mass surrounded by restoration work that is part of a $175 million project to fix cracks and clean walls darkened by decades of soot and pollution.

On the avenue, the religious message of redemption didn't get totally drowned out.

Yakup Can, who calls himself a "messianic Jew and follower of Christ," held up a Bible as he surveyed the zany scene.

"This is a carnival of darkness, it's paganism, it's a mockery of Easter," said the retired Diamond District jeweler from New Jersey. "This has nothing to do with Christ; we are asking for the wrath of God."

Not so, said Herrera, waiting in line for the next service.

If the Easter Parade has taken on a modern twist, "it's a little bit of fun for the occasion, and you take it for what it is," she said. "It's 2014; let's enjoy it."

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