While socialite Margarita Bergen is holding a Clorox bottle these days instead of a champagne glass, she's keeping spirits up by dressing up for Easter and quoting Martha Washington.
An invitation from Margarita: This abominable Corona Virus is not going to stop me from putting on my Easter Finery. I will take a photo of myself and have invited all my friends to do likewise. We’ll post the album in French Quarter Journal. You’re invited to join us! Send your Easter Finery photo to email@example.com.
Darlings friends, I hope this note will find you healthy and safe. I feel fortunate and blessed that I am alive and healthy and pray for those unfortunate ones that caught the virus and those who have succumbed to it.
It has been a nightmare for me since I am not accustomed to staying home! Now, I find myself with a bottle of Clorox in my hand rather a glass of bubbly and cleaning up my house, which is full of papers and memorabilia. At least I am finding a lot of old photographs that I hope I will be able to use in my upcoming memoir.
Darlings, every year I look forward to the month of April since it is the Spring Season, full of festivals, Easter Parades, crawfish - and my birthday on April 24. I had already made plans to host a celebration at the legendary Rex Room of historic Antoine's and was planning to fill it up with a few of my darling friends. So you can imagine how difficult it is for me to accept the reality that during the entire month of April 2020, I need to observe the mandate of social isolation.
Being Catholic, Easter has always been very special to me. Celebrating in the French Quarter is especially enjoyable because for several decades not one, but three parades have wound through the neighborhood streets on Easter day.
The Historic French Quarter Easter Parade
The oldest of the city’s Easter parades, it first rolled in 1956 led by Germaine Wells, who redefined what it meant to wear your “Sunday best” on Easter. Germaine, the daughter of Count Arnaud Cazanave who founded Arnaud’s Restaurant, fashioned the event after the stylish New York City Easter parades taking place at the time. Germaine and parade participants dressed in the latest fashions completed by beautiful colorful hats and bonnets. I still remember her fabulous chapeaus.
Fortunately the tradition continues - the 2020 parade would have been the 64th for the group. Usually the parade begins at 10am, rolling from Antoine’s (713 St. Louis St.) and arriving at Jackson Square in time for 11am mass at St. Louis Cathedral. Exquisitely dressed ladies with gorgeous chapeaus and decorated baskets ride in mule-drawn carriages or convertibles, handing out Easter treats for children.
After mass, the parade heads back to Antoine’s where participants disperse awards for the best Easter attire and basket, among other things. For years I was one of the judges at this beautiful parade. After Mass, I would join the Chris Owens Easter Parade.
The Chris Owens Easter Parade
This Easter would have marked the 37th year for this parade. The celebration begins at the Omni Royal Orleans Hotel ballroom with a hat contest, silent auction and entertainment. Riders then hop onto colorful floats and ride through the Quarter, accompanied by festive marching groups and bands. The New Orleans Grand Duchess of Easter, Chris Owens, leads the parade, dressed in her personally designed Easter ensemble. Afterward, the revelers enjoy a champagne brunch and dancing, while I head out to the colorful fun-loving Gay Easter Parade.
The Gay Easter Parade
This year would have been the 20th Gay Easter Parade, founded by Ambush Magazine to showcase the fashion and creativity of the entire LGBT community. Parade-goers enjoy seeing gentlemen in summer suits/ tux with hats, and ladies in Easter suits/dresses with Easter hats. Or not. The parade also features elaborately decorated horse-drawn carriages, drag queens, brass bands, walking groups, and many bunny costumes. The family-friendly event (no nudity, partial nudity or sexually explicit throws are allowed) takes place on Sunday afternoons and is open to all.
This year, of course no parade will roll. However, this abominable Corona Virus is not going to stop me from putting on my Easter Finery. I will take a photo of myself and have invited all my friends to do likewise. We’ll post the album in French Quarter Journal.
You’re invited to join us! Send your Easter Finery photo to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the meanwhile, keep strong! Remember that we are all in this together and hopefully the virus will soon be contained.
I want to conclude this note with these words by Martha Washington:
I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself. For I have learned that the greater part of our misery or unhappiness is determined not by our circumstance but by our disposition.
Margarita Bergen was born in Santo Domingo, but she was born to be a New Orleanian. She’s a fan of the ballet, symphony, theater, opera and the visual arts – not to mention champagne. Margarita describes herself as a “party animal” and doesn’t miss a beat when it comes to the Quarter’s jazzy social scene. Margarita’s master’s was in education and her career in school administration, but her passion now is celebrating. In a city with so much going on you can’t possibly do it all, here’s the woman who gives it the old college try. She’s fabulous, dahling!
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Rheta Grimsley Johnson
Social Distance Dining