Instead of yelling at them, I thought, "Hmm...They look like they're doing a Chasidic version of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Or maybe La Cage Aux Folles. The loud but lilting music that echoed off the houses made it seem even more like a campy drag revue.
Turns out, I wasn't too far off. At sundown, a couple of hours before I left work, the feast of Purim began. Some people refer to it as "The Jewish Mardi Gras," which also isn't too far off.
It commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people from destruction in the ancient Persian Empire. Hamman, a high-ranking advisor to King Ahaseurus, conceived of the plot, which is revealed to the king by Esther, who became his favorite concubine and, finally, his wife. Until the moment she tipped the king off, she did not reveal her Jewish identity.
It's a complicated but fascinating story, which is related in the Magillat Esther, the only book of the Torah in which G-d* isn't mentioned by name. However, everything about the story, including Esther's concealment of her identity, shows G-d working in mysterious ways and in various guises.
That is one of the reasons why people wear costumes for the feast and it is the only day on which the prohibition against men wearing women's clothing is not observed.
Hmm...Could that have been an early manifestation of "don't ask, don't tell"?
* I am using the name of G-d in the way an Orthodox or Chasidic Jew would.