8 Things to Know About Purim
The weeks between Hanukkah and Passover are bleak on the holiday front, but out of the cold winter, a wild, kid-oriented holiday named Purim emerges, bringing costumes, cookie-eating, gift-giving and storytelling. Here are seven things to know about Purim:
1. The scroll of Esther, written on a scroll or “megillah”, tells the story of a young Jewish orphan named Esther who was raised by her uncle Mordecai during a dangerous period for the Persian Jews. She was ultimately crowned the queen of Persia by King Ahasvereus, and was able to intervene and save the Jewish people from a massacre planned by the king’s evil advisor, Haman.
2. Purim is the one noisy holiday when kids can make a ton of sanctioned, boisterous noise at synagogue. As the Megilla is read, kids must listen closely for mention of the name "Haman". When his name is uttered, kids are encouraged to shout, boo, and shake their noise-makers (in Yiddish called graggers, in Hebrew called rashanim).
3. It can be a crazy dress-up holiday. Grown-ups and children dress up in costume and go to synagogue. Drunkenness is also sanctioned, and some believe that revellers should get so drunk, they can’t tell the difference between Haman and Mordecai.
4. Hamentaschen is the official Purim cookie. When I was a kid, my mom and grandma would spend a day rolling out the dough, cutting it into circles, spooning a dollop of prune or poppy seed filling and tucking it into a triangle for baking. Other fillings include jam and nuts and honey. Some people say the cookies resemble Haman’s hat with 3 points, others call it Haman’s Ears, and yet others call it Haman’s Pockets. Either way, they are delicious! Check out our hamentaschen recipe thread on the message boards.
5. Giving gifts to friends, aka Mishloach Manot, usually involves preparing little plates of treats for your friends and family and bringing them to homes.
6. Give a donation to charity! Charity is a cornerstone of many religions, and Judaism is no exception. Matanot La'evyonim incorporates charitable giving, into the holiday.
7. Have a feast! Like every Jewish holiday, there is a celebratory meal (Seudah). This you can count on. To quote ‘What I like about Jew,' they tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat!
8. The story of Esther is a great one, and if you read the original translated text, it’s actually a good deal more violent than the sanitized version they tell you as a kid. But it’s still a great story. And it’s just so fitting that it falls on March 8, International Women's Day, this year, because Esther was a brave and resourceful woman who put herself at risk to save others. And that’s a story worth telling.