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The Fun of Flamboyantly Dressing Up, Halloween or Not

by Rick van der Made in Columns & Opinions , 02 november 2018

Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar
Length: 4 minutes

When you are reading this, you may just be getting your pumpkins ready, trying on your troll costume, or hanging up fake spider’s webs for Halloween. It’s that time of the year again. Even though I love dress-up parties, strangely enough Halloween was never really my thing. I did not grow up with it.

My brother, sisters and I had a mother who had been in a monastery and could tell all kinds of beautiful biblical stories about life and death relating to that very same time of the year. After all, as a good Catholic family, we celebrated All Saints’ Day on November the 1st, and All Souls’ Day on November the 2nd - with everything that is associated with these days, including visiting the church and the cemetery.

All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day are all “Merkel Days” my mother taught me. Merkel Days are special days in the Catholic Calendar of Saints, in which the weather of that day is decisive for the following period. Merkel Days have beautiful sayings associated with them. To me, the most beautiful saying was that for February 14, Valentine’s Day: “If the earth on Saint Valentine is covered in white, the fields and acres will be full of delight.”

On the morning of All Saints’ Day, my mother invariably said: “It’s a ‘waterken’ or a ‘winterken,’” and her offspring eagerly awaited what kind of weather the day would bring. If it remained dry, the winter would be mild (“waterken”), and if it would be stormy or snowed, the winter would be harsh (“winterken”). All Souls’ Day also had its own saying. But we did not dress up for these days. Not for Halloween, and not on November 1-2.

In the catholic south of the Netherlands, we only dress up for carnival, to get freezing cold and intoxicated in a silly outfit. Most people find that more than enough. However, some people cannot get enough of it, for instance my dearest brother-in-law, my brother’s husband.

When I turned eighteen, I threw a party. Actually, it was two parties. I would have all my friends over on Saturday, while Friday night was reserved for family, neighbours and some colleagues and acquaintances of my parents. The refrigerator was filled with beer, white wine and whipped cream, and the cigarettes (in a slightly higher silver cup for filter cigarettes and a somewhat lower silver cup for the fags without filter) were on the table. That afternoon, my mother and I had wrapped slices of ham around asparagus and gherkins, and father had thoroughly rinsed the Tupperware dishes for the crisps and nuts.

It was busy that Friday evening, eighteen being a landmark age. By eight o’clock, the living room was full to the brim and smoky blue. The cake was distributed, and aunts and neighbours were chatting while devouring their first eggnog. Around nine o’clock and to our surprise, someone continuously rang the doorbell while creating a racket with the mailbox. Everyone looked surprised. “Isn’t everyone here already?,” I wondered. “Which forgotten family member is making a racket in front of the house?”
I walked to the front door. Someone screamed through the letterbox. I opened the door and could not believe my eyes for a second. My brother-in-law and nine of his friends were there.

In drag!

They were wearing glittering dresses and gorgeous wigs, and walked on stiletto heels. “Congratulations, darling!,” Adrie said. “We are really looking forward to your party!” He hugged me and I nearly disappeared into his huge dress of white tulle.

Before I could announce that they had showed up on the wrong night, my brother-in-law and his group of friends had already walked into the living room laughing and screaming. From the corridor I heard the laughter falling silent. I saw that my father’s “upstanding” colleague had choked on her eggnog after seeing the jolly group. I waited, sighed, and entered the room. My mother continued as if nothing had happened, and poured the drag queens some wine. “Lovely dress,” she told one of them. “Beautiful rhinestones chain,” she told the other. My father gave the startled visitors another eggnog. “No better remedy against stomach acid than eggnog with whipped cream,” he must have thought.

In the kitchen, mother looked at me while smiling. With three gay children, she was used to some upheaval. Although she was still religious, she had left her monastic life and the strict Catholic teachings behind her. “Well,” my mother told me. “If my son-in-law is dressed in white on your birthday, the fields and acres will be filled with joy.”

“My birthday is no merkel day,” I said with a smile.

“In that dress, your brother-in-law somewhat resembles a not so successful virgin Mary,” my mother said smiling. She picked up the bowl with egg salad on pieces of toast and walked into the living room.

I now find dressing up once a year more than enough, but I wish you - regardless of whether it will be a cold or mild winter - a great and spooky Halloween.



published Dec 2015       

published Dec 2015       

published Apr 2019       

published Dec 2017        Length: 5 minutes


In the New Issue of Gay News, 336, August/ Pride 2019

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