Growing up, I never did anything for Halloween. My parents simply wouldn’t let me. Some years they at least bought candy for trick or treaters, but other years they were the ones in the neighborhood who turned off the house lights so no one would come to the door. Part of their logic was religious—it wasn’t a Jewish holiday, so we didn’t celebrate it (despite the fact that the holiday is now virtually void of any religious meaning). I think part of it was also unfamiliarity. Halloween was simply foreign to them.
When I was a kid, it was always sort of a bummer. All of my friends would spend the days leading up to Halloween talking about what they were dressing up as and the days following talking about all the candy they got. But by the time I got to college, I was over the idea of getting dressed up for Halloween. I threw together a 60’s outfit (read: wore mismatched bright clothes) my freshman year because my roommates were going to the Halloween parade all dressed up and I wasn’t sure what else to wear. My junior year I was in Portugal, where I quickly gathered that Halloween was perceived as a much darker, more sinister holiday in Europe than in the States.
Last year was the first time I ever put any real effort into a costume. Doug and I had started dating not long before and I was itching to dress up as Jasmine and Aladdin. So we did. But it still just wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
While the comparison between Halloween and Purim isn’t entirely sound, I’m going to make it anyways (getting dressed up in costumes is really the only similarity).
More than a year since my short bout as Jasmine, I celebrated my first Purim in Israel. And it was amazing. Throughout the week, people got dressed up. It was like being in New York again for a week—seeing someone wearing something ridiculous and wondering if it’s a costume or their actual style. Costume stores sprouted up left and right, but in a far more encompassing way than they do in the States for Halloween… random household goods stores, grocery stores, and shuk stalls expanded their usual commerce to include costume goods.
The atmosphere was wonderful, especially since we planned to get dressed up for our office Purim party. With about two weeks to put something together, we decided to be Mario and Luigi. It was surprisingly easy to gather blue overalls, a long sleeve crew-cut red shirt, and a properly shaped red hat for my Mario costume. Doug’s Luigi costume, however, was far more challenging. While I’m well aware that overalls are not in style, I didn’t realize just how hard it would be to find a pair of men’s overalls (don’t even get me started on finding a pair that might fit a man of Doug’s dimensions).
I checked countless websites, called tons of stores, and asked lots of friends before finding a workers’ goods store in Tel Aviv that was accessible by bus and that supposedly had blue overalls. We planned to leave work early to arrive at the store before it closed, but got stuck in terrible traffic and didn’t manage to make it in time. Instead, we picked up hats from the shuk (they didn’t have a green one for Luigi, so we got a white one and planned to somehow make it green) and found a crew-cut sweater in the right shade of green for Luigi.
On our walk to the bus, we passed a thrift store called Vizeo located right next to our old apartment building on King George. Thinking they might have something we could use for our costumes, we popped in. Seeing the overwhelming amount of stuff they had, I asked in Hebrew while motioning somewhat hopelessly at the taller than average Doug, “would you happen to have overalls that would fit him?” Without hesitation, she replied that they did. A store employee promptly showed us where they were located. I excitedly pulled every pair they had off the rack, led Doug to a fitting room, and pushed him in with the overalls in hand. The first pair he tried on was an excellent shade of blue, but only reached mid-calf. The second one, while a lighter blue than ideal, fit Doug like a glove. Not only was it perfect for his height, but it was also perfect for his width… a surprising combination considering how thin he is for his height. With a green sweater and overalls in tow, we headed home. Mario and Luigi were successfully in the making!
Over the next weeks, I dyed Luigi’s hat, cut the M & L logos for each hat and sewed them on, bought chocolate gelt, made character-specific puffy mustaches, prepared gloves, and sewed fireballs, ice balls, and mushrooms. I completed the final props the night before the party.
The night of the party, we got dressed at a friend’s apartment. We put on our overalls, donned our gloves, wore our hats, tied on our mustaches, and taped our gelt in our pockets so they stuck out. We looked pretty fantastic, if I do say so myself. Our friends dressed up, too: Freddy Kruger, a prison inmate, a cowgirl, a pirate, and a guy in a dress.
We headed over to the party, which was pretty empty when we got there. But by the time we had eaten the available burgers, fries, hummus, and sandwiches, took advantage of the open bar, and taken a few pictures in the photo booth they had set up, the party was getting warmed up.
At some point, the head of the office’s finance department came over and gave me a flashing ring that indicated that Doug and I were in the running for the best costume prize. Needless to say, I was pretty excited. We continued schmoozing until the contest. While we ultimately didn’t win (although I’m pretty sure our costumes were more labor-intensive than all but one of the others in the competition), I was happy to have gotten that far.
Afterwards, people started dancing and really loosened up. We spent the next few hours rotating between talking to people, taking more pictures in the photo booth, and dancing. Ultimately, I had a great time—free food and drinks, friendly coworkers, time with friends, and dancing with Doug? How could I not (despite our loss)?
The next day was similarly fantastic, although we spent a good deal of it on buses. In the morning we went to what’s known as an “Adlayada” (essentially a Purim parade; Hebrew עַדְלָיָדַע; Aramaic עַד דְּלָא יָדַע). I was later told that the word Adlayada came from a combination of the words (slightly altered to make sense in modern-day Hebrew) “ad shelo yada,” which means, “until one doesn’t know.” Historically, the parade is supposed to involve a LOT of drinking… so much so that by the end, those in the parade don’t know what’s going on (hence the name). There were lots of dance troupes, a few floats, and different types of strange figures. While the parade itself wasn’t particularly notable, it was nice to see how much of a family event Purim was. Children in all sorts of costumes (my favorites probably being babies in chicken and duck costumes) ran around as parents distributed bamba, bisli, and popsicles to their kids.
From there, we went to visit my mom at my grandfathers. She was flying out on Sunday, so it was nice to spend a little time with her before she left. In our usual pre-Shabbat rush (mostly driven by the knowledge that buses stop running at sundown), we hurried off so that we could catch a bus home. From there we went to my uncle’s house for Shabbat dinner. It was the first time Doug and I got to have Shabbat dinner with just my uncle and his immediate family (usually, more people come too). The quietness was nice and the meal was certainly more intimate. The kids sat through most of it, too, and were quite talkative.
After dinner, we had our usual cup of tea with dessert. Ten minutes later, we were already dozing in front of the television. With that, we took our cue and headed home, where we promptly fell asleep to happy thoughts of Mario & Luigi, costumes, funnily attired children, family, and food.