Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Dance your heart out* (*367 days a year)

For the past two years, I have gone out to Halloween parties. In of itself, going to a Halloween party is not remarkable, but the past two parties I’ve gone to have been shut down by the police. If you were a teenager, this wouldn’t be a remarkable experience, but when it happens in your late 30’s, it’s pretty comical.

To say the parties were shutdown for two different reasons, would be an understatement. The party I went to last year was held by a friend and he easily had 150 people in his house and a professional DJ in the basement. It was like something out of an 80’s teen flick. I’d never seen anything like it before. House packed to the rafters with people and pretty much everyone dressed up. I distinctly remember someone saying “Oh look, those guys dressed as VPD (Vancouver police department) look so REAL” and I replied “That’s cause they are!” I can’t help but feel bad for police at a costume party. The fact that the party went on until 2am before being shutdown by the police was a miracle. I’m pretty sure the neighbors were either deaf, ran grow ops or were in gangs for not having called sooner.

This year, was my first experience at a German Halloween party. The English group that meets in Nurnberg had a party scheduled for a local bar in town. I know that Halloween is still pretty “new” in Germany and it’s only in the past few years that kids have started trick or treating. I thought that since it was going to be a large group of ex-pats, dressing up in costume was expected. I was wrong. There was probably only a dozen or so people in costumes and those that were, were mostly only dressed in zombie like makeup. I’ve since learned that “most” germans love the dark side of Halloween. Sure, in North America there are more than your share of ghosts, zombie and Frankenstein costumes, but we try to mix it up.

I (uncreatively) dressed up as Betty Boop. I made the costume a few years ago and it’s not hard to get my hair Betty Boop’d. Also, I was too lazy to think up anything else. Earlier in the day, we were considering what my friend C should wear. Due to her amazing red hair, I had a great idea that she should dress as Jessica Rabbit from Who framed Roger Rabbit. The fact that she wasn’t really familiar with the character seemed unimportant to me. I told her to just walk around and say “I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way” she’d be fine.

We spent the afternoon whipping up her sexy red dress and gloves. 8 hours later, she was turned into an incredible Jessica Rabbit. It. Looked. Awesome. The hair, the makeup, the dress!!!! So off we went, Betty Boop and Jessica Rabbit. Our first strange looks came from the taxi driver. Looking back, he probably thought we were hookers. I did tell him in broken German that this was for Halloween and not our normal dresses. He giggled under his breath.

C and I got to the bar and quickly realized we were a) not the only ones dressed up b) the only ones not attempting “ghoulishness” and c) no one would recognize us and would in fact think we were hookers. To alleviate our discomfort, we quickly had a shot.

I got into a conversation with a German (my opening line was “Did you dress up as Keanu Reeves?”- he looked similar to him and had the whole sweatshirt and jeans casual look going on) We got into why Halloween wasn’t so big in Germany. November 1st is a holiday in Germany- all saints day. “Perfect” I said “All the more reason to celebrate!”. “But you see, in Germany, it’s illegal to dance past midnight” he replied.

For a minute, I thought he was joking and was trying to attempt some reference to another cheesy 80’s movie- Footloose, where dancing was forbidden. But, no.

It turns out that there are 8 days a year in Bavaria where dancing is forbidden. Though I grew up Catholic in an especially Catholic area of Canada, I’ve never heard of any dancing bans. We ate fish on good Friday and went to mass at school on the holidays and called it a day. Dance your heart out whenever you want!

But not in Bavaria. I’ve since done some research ( a) to prove it exists and b) to prove to my friend’s German boyfriend it exists) Because I’m relying on google translation for my research, I’m not 100% clear why this archaic law exists. From what I can tell, it started in the era of National Socialism in 1939 before the start of WWII. It then eased during WWII because it was importan for the soliders to be entertained. It was then renewed in 1941 but each state has different regulations on what they adopt. For instance, you can’t dance in any state on good Friday. But you can dance in Bavaria on Christmas eve between 2pm and midnight. You can’t dance at all in Bavaria on Easter weekend from Holy Thursday to Holy Saturday. In Berlin, you can dance on good Friday, but only from 4am to 9pm.

It’s so bizarre, that you’d think this is one of those old laws that no one follows and certainly no one enforces. WRONG! At around 12:45am, the Polizei diligently showed up and shut the party down. No dancing. No loud music. It’s bizarre to understand and I’m baffled that this exists. The fact that it’s a quietly accepted law and there’s no real basis for why it’s wrong, makes it even more strange. But alas, it is what it is, and you can dance your heart out, 357 days a year!

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