twelfth night, the lord of misrule and the art of the “get up”
Twelfth night, January 6, is traditionally when the guilt and anxiety-provoking season celebrating the birth of the lord of peace ends and the freewheeling, rowdy, drunken reign of the lord of misrule begins, culminating in the bacchanalia of mardi gras. But then, dontcha know the very next day, Ash Wednesday the old wet blanket’s back and we all have to feel really guilty about how much fun we’ve been having without him around and repent, hard time. And lent is even longer than the xmas season, or at least it used to be, until walmart decided it starts the day after the 4th of July.
Once again we can thank those fab pagans for another christian custom. They celebrated 12th night (or thereabouts) too except they called it Saturnalia, which is what I would have named my first child if I’d known then what I know now. And in various cultures through the ages it has been ruled by the aforementioned LOM, or in France “le prince des sots” (of which I am particularly fond) or the Abbot of Unreason in Scotland (boring). Whatever the moniker, come twelfth night she (okay, maybe he) reigned over the Feast of Fools (which is what I am calling the cassoulet I am making for dinner, for it is truly a fool’s errand, longer and more intense than a 12 step program but with a really good meal at the end). During the rule of the LOM, the proper nature of things are turned on their heads, or kicked in their asses, depending on your point of view. Peasants rule the kings, slaves their masters, etc. and during this period the LOM has the power to command anyone to do anything her fickle mind comes up with.
My fickle mind came up with a bash to celebrate the season and commanded all the guests to create a “get up” for the evening. A “get up” is familiar to anyone from New Orleans. It is not a costume, it is an improvised fanciful sartorial creation. However, most of my dinner guests hail from lands far far away from New Orleans and trying to explain what it meant was nigh on to impossible, like asking Helen Keller to sing an aria from La Traviata. So just as Annie Sullivan, Helen’s teacher, had to start somewhere, I began with goodwill. No not that kind. The goodwill store. So we made a journey over to the land where dreams are born.
There are not words to describe the vast sea of possibilities. Every one funnier than the one before. The other patrons, seeing us sobbing in hysterics underneath the mens’ pants rack probably just took us for employees having a little setback on our road to recovery. In the end we walked out with, among other things, one choir robe, three sets of “drapery sheers”, some furry stuff, a lab coat, a tiny necktie, a pair of men’s white slip-on shoes with a huge gold logo, a couple of appropriately gaudy polyester shirts and a pair of silky maroon double knit leisure pants.
And so the LOM has decreed: Let the “get up” games begin.