A life-size mustard bottle, a Teletubby and a sombrero attached to a donkey — these were just a few things that whizzed by me last week as I stood and watched hordes of seniors race past me for what is known as Senior Masquerade in the Yeshivah of Flatbush in Brooklyn. The school tradition holds that during Rosh Chodesh of Adar, the month of Purim, all seniors dress up in fun and funky costumes, run around the school, interrupt classes and have a ball — all with permission from the administration. It’s a long-standing tradition that’s been held for years and continues to this day.
At first you just smile as a Teletubby runs by, then you find yourself laughing when faculty impersonators start popping up in the throngs of kids filling the hallways floor by floor. In fact, Purim is the only day of the year you have permission to put on a costume, act silly and get free candy. Yet every year I notice fewer teens wearing Purim costumes. Why not dress up anymore?
Let’s flash back for a moment to the days when our faces lit up with joy at the sight of a well-packed gift basket, filled to the top with all the sugary goodness a 7-year-old could want. And what about the thrill? Picking out exactly what you were going to be, buying all the necessary supplies — the face paint, the wig, the makeup, the big red silly shoes. And what about baking hamantaschen or better yet — what about eating them? And what about groggers and noisemakers and the party poppers that sprayed confetti everywhere when you pulled the little white string at the bottom?
The custom of wearing costumes on Purim is actually an allusion to the Purim miracle. The details of the story of Purim are really miracles hidden within natural events. For example, God, not Queen Esther, was the one to save the Jewish people from evil Haman’s destruction. Hence, we dress up to show how the miracles were masked and hidden. Does the thrill of Purim dim with age or is there something more to our lack of spirit, something that says where we are heading as a nation today?
When Yeshivah of Flatbush teens were asked how they feel about dressing up on Purim their answers varied. “I think most people have a part of them that will always appreciate fun and child-like things,” said senior Miriam Wade. “Regardless of their age, people can dress up no matter how old they are.”
Senior Vivi Rosenberg said the inspiration for her costume as a fairy came when she saw a tutu online. “I thought it was really cute and tried to think of a costume I could use it for,” she said. “I think you’re never too old to dress up, the costumes get better as you get older because you become more creative and you have the ability to come up with better ideas.”
So what were some of the creative ideas seen on Senior Masquerade? Senior Debbie Waldman dressed up as Pink Lady (Rizzo) from “Grease”. “I love the movie ‘Grease’, it’s my favorite,” she said.
Three friends dressed as the Three Blind Mice. “We bought mice ears and wore tails and John Lennon glasses,” said Grace Mizrachi. “What inspired me to use this costumes was that I didn’t have any extra cash lying around and the ears were only six bucks.”
Rina Ben-Benyamin, who dressed up as Madonna, had the same thrifty thought process. “I was trying on a skirt and I felt like an ’80s chick and it just hit me to be Madonna,” she said. “I just used pieces of clothing I already had in my closet.”
Albert Pariente Cohen turned himself into Borat, a Sacha Baron Cohen character. “He is my role model and he’s hilarious and I can do the accent really well,” said Pariente Cohen jokingly. “So why not?” He achieved the look using a suit, a small American flag and a lot of hair gel (Pariente Cohen also spent five minutes explaining to me how he achieved the perfect hairstyle look).
Other teens, though, weren’t as jubilant about the costume custom. “It’s useless to wear a costume,” said Joseph Zigdun. He wore a borrowed Spiderman outfit for the masquerade and did admit he enjoyed the senior shenanigans and goofy antics. Another senior, Shevi Weisz, who dressed up as Alice from Alice in Wonderland, agreed with him. “I feel ridiculous. I was never really into it before,” she said.
Is dressing up a continuation of one’s child-like self or is it an excuse to be silly and wear a costume? Although it might seem that the tradition heads to an end once a certain age is reached, opinions vary and there is no one age when this fun should stop forever. The fun and jokes might fade with maturity, but some of us still hold onto that bit of our childhood, those memories of good times, and we hug our tradition tightly enough to never be too old to get dressed up.
So this year, when deciding whether or not to take a quick peek into the costume store or to stop and buy that cute tutu you see online, think to yourself, or aloud, am I ever really too old to get dressed up?