Why are red-haired people called gingers

Ginger Pride - As a redhead, at the largest gathering of redheads

Hundreds of redheads gather in Breda, the Netherlands, every year to celebrate themselves. Our author has red hair too, so he went there. And has learned something about being different among equals.

They said this is the moment you feel it. When you stand there and the red pops around you. Red, shaggy, frizzy, sparse, red that shimmers brown, red that shines blond, an autumn forest of hair. And you in the middle. One of the redheads. Then you feel it, they said. It's the Redhead Days, it's Sunday afternoon, we're posing for the group photo, the highlight.

Next to me, a boy, paprika-red, hugs his sister, poppy-red. Do you feel it? Homosexuals have Gay Prides, redheads have festivals like the one in Breda, the Netherlands. It is considered the biggest event of its kind, several thousands have come in recent years, this year there are fewer - the weather. For one weekend, the hair color that only around one percent of mankind has is celebrated. A festival with lectures, yoga, pub crawls and speed dating.

My hair is amber red. They actually have the color 7.43, my hairdresser decoded them: Shade 7, a little copper (number 4), a few reflections of gold (number 3), you can mix, you can color. Growing up with red hair means that you look different - «special», say your parents, «different» your classmates. My red hair is the most noticeable thing about me, that and the freckles. My first scout name was Chili, Pumuckl was up for debate. As a teenager I dyed my hair, I wanted black, I was allowed to be dark brown. There was a lack of red-haired role models: Ed Sheeran didn't exist yet, I'm too young for Mick Hucknall from Simply Red, the eighties red-haired sex symbol. At that time, Prince Harry was still attending parties in Nazi costume.

Springsteen and the redheads

Constantine's hair: sweet and sour sauce red. He's the first redhead I meet in Breda on Saturday morning, and it's also his first time at Redhead Days. Konstantin is German, he wanted to come earlier, only his girlfriend had forbidden him. She had no red hair, and Konstantin actually likes red-haired women. He no longer has the girlfriend. Now he's looking for a new one. "We have to see that our race lives on, right?" Says Konstantin. I don't feel anything. Perhaps strange.

How red-haired men and how red-haired women are perceived is very different. That has always been the case, writes the author Jacky Colliss Harvey in her book "Red", a cultural history of redheads. Red-haired women are considered desirable, wicked and wild. Mary Magdalene was often painted with red hair. Bruce Springsteen sang: "It takes a redheaded woman to get a dirty job done."

There are no songs about red-haired men. Taylor Swift once said, "I'd do a ginger," she'd do it with a redhead, but she didn't write a song about it. There is also a male figure in the Bible who was often painted with red hair: Judas. He didn't have the kind of “dirty job” Springsteen envisioned. But he probably shaped the perception of red-haired men, they are considered awkward, not wild, at most impetuous. My hairdresser has never dyed a man at 7.43.

Mandy's hair: desert sand red, washed out with time. Mandy comes from the USA, she travels to Europe every year for the Redhead Days, for the fourth time already, she has made friends here. We sit across from each other during speed dating. Mandy says, “We were all teased as kids. We redheads, we all have an instant connection. " That sounds good, we're going to dinner. Mandy tells about her assault rifle, pink. And Donald Trump. She says: "The media lie." Because I am the media, we don't have much to say to each other anymore. I don't feel any magical connection among redheads. But understanding of Mandy's story.

The author Xavier Fauche writes about redheads: "They are a minority who define themselves by how others look at them, because they do not form an ethnic group and have neither a common language nor a common cultural heritage." Is there really such a thing as a common spirit of redhead? I doubt it. And yet people like Mandy and I share a history of teasing, looking different, and looking for self-confidence. It changes the way other people look at you, you get louder or quieter, cheekier or quieter. This is probably the case for all people who outwardly do not conform to the norm.

I got louder. But there is a fragile self-confidence, I noticed that once in Australia: there they call redheads “Ranga”, an abbreviation for orangutan that is not meant to be affectionate. At first I laughed about it. But the more often I was called "Ranga", the more annoyed I became, it was a childlike annoyance, I couldn't laugh it off.

Recognition moments

There are many insults to redheads, including prejudice. The most persistent rumor is that they will soon become extinct. That's not true. Anyone who has a certain variant of the MC1R gene in their cells becomes redheaded. This gene regulates the production of melanin, the substance that is supposed to protect the skin against the sun - because there are two different types of melanin, the mixture makes the hair color. The MC1R gene is recessive, which means that the father and mother both have to carry the red variant so that the child gets red hair. Redheads would only become extinct if all people with this gene variant stopped reproducing.

Francesco's hair: ampel orange. When he unties his topknot, they fall over his shoulders. Francesco is Italian, he was never joked about, he is over 1 meter 90. “I love my red hair, I love to stand out,” he says. It's Saturday night, we're in a bar, Francesco's hair has long been loosened, the music is loud. Francesco and I yell at each other, he shouts: "Ginger power!" Someone raises his fist. I laugh. Proud, red-haired men. I feel it a little now.

It's not just other people who look at redheads. Redheads also eye one another. If I meet another redhead, on the platform in front of the commuter train, while jogging, I furtively inspect his hair. And then sometimes you get this feeling: It's like traveling abroad for a long time and suddenly hearing Swiss German - a feeling that you belong together a little.

Bart's hair: blonde. He founded the Redhead Days. Bart Rouwenhorst would have liked to have become a great painter, and whoever wants to become a great painter does it like the great painters before him, he thought. The British Dante Rossetti painted red-haired women in the 19th century, especially one of them, Fanny Cornforth, he made his muse. So Rouwenhorst was looking for redheads too. In 2005 he placed an advertisement that he was looking for 15 red-haired models, 150 had contacted him, he says. Everyone came, and Rouwenhorst kept inviting them. This became the festival.

It grew and grew. Rouwenhorst has discovered a need: that of redheads to celebrate their difference. He says: "What makes you special should be celebrated, not changed." That applies to redheads, but actually to everyone who is somehow different, including him. He is a quiet man, introverted, and yet a festival organizer. He did not become an artist, he works as an IT consultant.

The Redhead Days are also self-assurance for redheads: You are not alone. This is irritating because suddenly everyone is different, i.e. the same, equally different. Nobody is noticeable anymore. And you become part of a subculture, although nobody asks if you want to belong at all. There are T-shirts with funny sayings (“I'm having a red hair day »), a magazine for redheads and even fans who do not have red hair and who take photos of redheads. Bart Rouwenhorst says it's about giving redheads a sense of togetherness, and so is pride; there are similar events in the USA, Germany, Brazil, Australia. A red-haired emoji has been around for a few weeks.

Joy in self-presentation

It's fun to celebrate. As if we all had a birthday together. But isn't it silly to be proud of something you can't do anything for? Rouwenhorst says: “In the past, people defined themselves through families, their beliefs and their jobs. These are things that are slowly disappearing. Today everyone can define what they want: Find what you like about yourself, something that makes you unique, and celebrate it! " And show that you are celebrating it: Via Instagram, Facebook, wherever, the Redhead Days are also self-presentation. The pride in being different: it springs from the zeitgeist.

It's Sunday afternoon, I'm in the autumn forest, group photo. Then you feel it, they said. And I feel it. It's that feeling again that comes when I see another redhead, that feeling when you hear Swiss German abroad. When you see so many so close by, it's pretty strong. It's like coming home after a long trip abroad.