We just missed Carnivale. That day before Lent when all bets are off and seemingly normal people don costumes and parade in the street. On this island I’ve seen Marie Antoinette, a gorilla, a bubble girl dressed in cut-up plastic bottles, and an airplane.
And thanks to my MIL Ada, I’ve been reminded Purim would be next. A holiday that found Bob once dressed like an Irish fairy and our temple president wearing a Super Jew hero costume! And like Carnevale, there will be tasty sweets to go along with all the whimsy.
Sometimes the connections between Christianity and Judaism are obvious, like all those eggs at Easter and the egg on the Seder plate. I hadn’t thought about putting on a mask to hide our darker side, that deeper aggressive instinct in us all as a link in our combined culture. We Americans think more of Halloween as that fun space in time, but for the Christian world it’s really Carnevale.
So it was surprising to read about a similar festival in Japan. Our villa is bulging with books, and I happened to pick up “Geisha, a Life,” by Mineko Iwasaki. It was maybe only two sentences, about Setsubun, a time in February when people dress up in costumes. Now you might think that geisha are always in costume, and you’d be right. At least when they were out at night entertaining their clients. Their exquisite kimonos, reflecting each season, could cost nearly ten thousand dollars each. And no, they are not high class call girls.
But even the women of the Gion Kobu district would wear something different for Setsubun, they would pick a theme and run with it.
So it’s a universal condition, the need to play at being someone else in the middle of winter. To try out a different persona and see how it fits. In its way, we are reminded that everything will change. That lawyers can be super heroes and designers can be record players. And some can touch the sky.