February 24 is known as Прочка (Prochka) here.  It’s the day of forgiveness.  Young people are expected to seek the forgiveness of their elders and many of them seek money (usually coins, etc.) in return.  There is a parade through town and almost everyone is dressed up in a costume or wearing a fancy mask.

I enjoyed taking part in the festivities this year.  I went to a concert, watched the parade, and wore a mask.

But I couldn’t help thinking about how the physical masks I was seeing were only another layer added to the masks that were already there.  Everyone puts on a front.  Everyone tries to be who they think others want them to be.  Sometimes it is fully intentional, sometimes it is mere habit, and sometimes it is completely sub-conscious.

I had planned to write a poem about it, and maybe I still will someday, but I cannot shake the song “Masquerade” from the movie Phantom of the Opera from my mind.  It says very well so much of what I want to say.  So here are the lyrics:

Paper faces on parade . . .Masquerade!
Hide your face,so the world will never find you!
Every face a different shade . . .Masquerade!
Look around -there’s another mask behind you!Flash of mauve …Splash of puce …Fool and king …Ghoul and goose …Green and black …Queen and priest …Trace of rouge …Face of beast …Faces …Take your turn, take a ride on the merry-go-round …in an inhuman race

Eye of gold …Thigh of blue …True is false …Who is who?… Curl of lip …Swirl of gown …Ace of hearts …Face of clown …Faces …Drink it in, drink it up,till you’ve drowned in the light …in the sound …

Grinning yellows,spinning reds . . .Masquerade!
Take your fill -let the spectacle astound you!
Burning glances,turning heads . . .Masquerade!
Stop and stare at the sea of smiles around you!
Seething shadows breathing lies . . .Masquerade!
You can fool any friend who ever knew you!
Leering satyrs,peering eyes . . .Masquerade!
Run and hide but a face will still pursue you!

(Copied from

 We all hide behind our masks: masks of self-confidence or false humility, masks of happiness or self-pity.  There are too many masks to name them all, and most people have several in their collection.  They choose the mask that fits the mood – or the one that best disguises it.

I cannot help but wonder how many masks I encounter every day… how many am I wearing myself?  When was the last time I removed every mask and took a good, hard look at my true self?  How often have people removed their masks and allowed me to see their true beauty?  Did I embrace those moments in love and grace… or did my reaction immediately force the mask back up?

These are my ponderings this Sunday afternoon.


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