Christmas and Cross Dressing

“Cross dressing is what the English love best!”

A lecturer in my Victorian Christmas Class shared this priceless pearl of wisdom.   It was said only partly in jest!

This weekend we attended an English Pantomine, a musical-comedy theatrical production traditionally performed during the Christmas and New Year season.  Panto story lines and scripts usually make no direct reference to Christmas and are almost always based on traditional children’s stories.  We saw the classic Cinderella at the Hackney Empire.

I’ve decided that Panto is a bit like The Rocky Horror Picture Show (rated G) in its avid audience participation. Full disclosure: the audience was mostly made up of 6 year olds wearing princess costumes…they were a very enthusiastic crowd!  There was lots of booing for the evil stepmother and cheerful greetings for Cinderella.

Pop tunes are woven into  the context of the story.  Hence, the evil stepmother went GaGa and was “Born this Way” and the whole cast broke into Katie Perry’s “Firework” to celebrate the happy ending, complete with all her video dance moves (which most 6 year olds know quite well!)

However, I knew we were in trouble when the audience was asked to stand up and sing “Clip-Clop Clapton the Wonder Horse” not once, not twice, but three times!!  I turned and saw my husband on his feet singing, clapping, and neighing with the best of them — gotta love that!  I am worried that the very catchy song still lingers in my mind this morning…

Yet, the biggest Panto convention is that the main dame role is played by a man in drag (think Harvey Fierstein in Hairspray). It is this tradition that prompted the comment above.  What would Christmas be without some good ole cross dressing?!  Check out the step-sisters below:

As to other dress codes, I was informed that it is also tradition for Englishmen to dress in a very uncharacteristically bright and cheery way on Christmas Day.  In other words, the “appalling jumper” that Colin Firth wore in Bridget Jone’s Diary is in keeping with the tradition!

I can’t help but note that Jeff owns pants with holly and berries on them that he insists on wearing every Christmas with a red turtleneck and red socks.  He can dress up his look with his Rudolph tie complete with all the reindeer in flight.  Or, for a very fancy evening, he still dons the red clip-on bow tie that displays the message “Merry Christmas” that he wore when he was 5 years old!

Just imagine my Darcy in his holly pants and his clip-on bow tie singing about Clip-Clop Clapton the Wonder Horse….

…Does this make me Bridget Jones?


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