Monday, November 15, 2010

The Lord Mayor's Show

In the days of King John (think Robin Hood and Magna Charter for all American readers), in gratitude for help in feudal battles, London was granted to right to elect its own mayor.  Ever cautious, King John required the new mayor to present himself and pay homage.  This requirement became an annual ritual, and, eventually, the mayor's journey to the sovereign became a grand show, or parade, with the mayor and city representatives, guilds, and armed forces joining in.

I attended this year's show on Saturday.  I generally find parades quite tedious, but when the marching bands are in full gold-guided uniforms and on horse back, and the mayor's carriage is also gold-guilded (and generally kept in the British Museum, see picture above), suddenly I found it quite refreshing.  It also helped that I attended with four children in my congregation, who eagerly threw their little bags at the wishing tree, were handed chocolate gold-foil-wrapped coins by the "Worshipful Company of International Bankers," were delighted by the hand puppets worn by the otherwise very-austere looking city officials in 16th-Century inspired robes (I'd love to see an American politician wear a hand puppet for the kids), and caught and threw balls back and forth with various performers.

Almost everything about the parade reminded me that I wasn't in Kansas anymore:  1) those in character dress were a plenty  (several armed forces groups, representatives from the various guilds (pictured below), and, of course, city officials); 2) all were wearing the ubiquitous poppy as part of Remembrance Day observance (a rough equivalent of our Veteran's Day); 3) nearly-naked trojan dance ladies appeared on the scene (such would never fly in my more prudish homeland - see Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" in a Super Bowl exhibition); and 4) the bands here used xylophones as their beat-keeping and intermission instruments rather than a rack of drums.  

One aspect that was particularly interesting were all the vestiges of religious ceremony without the substance.  It was easy to imagine when religion played a much larger part in British psyche and pageantry.  I wonder, given this construct, if they would permit a group like my Church to enter a float.  I'd love to see the missionaries there en masse handing out something like a Nativity DVD, followed by members in our Helping Hands (the name for our service projects) vests, and the Family History Centre with a massive family tree...

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