Purim is just around the corner (March 9th & 10th), so it’s time to take a closer look at this fun-filled Jewish Holiday! Purim celebrates Esther and Mordecai’s victory over Haman, who schemed to draw purim (lots) to set a date for the massacre of all Jewish people in the Persian empire—at the time it would have been almost all of our ancestors!
When Esther and Mordecai triumphed over Haman, the Persian king ordered Haman to be hanged, and allowed us to defend against any aggressors. As a result, many enemies were defeated on 13 Adar, and the following day was for resting and celebrating the failure of Haman, establishing the Purim we celebrate today.
The entire Megillah (Book of Esther) is told twice during Purim: once on the Eve of Purim, after some observe the fast of Esther, then on the morning of Purim at the synagogue. During the retelling, we drown out each mention of Haman with graggers (noisemakers) and booing. If you want to dig deeper into the Megillah, traditional celebrations, and prayers, Chabad has an excellent Purim guide!
After the second reading, during the afternoon, Mishloach Manot are given to friends and family. Men give to men; women to women; children to children. These are packages of food and treats (small or large) that must contain at least two different foods or beverages, and are sometimes themed according to one’s Purim costume. Some synagogues will hold a Mishloach Manot for the whole community.
On Purim, the concept of tzedaka (charity) is also important—after all, it’s a holiday for all Jewish people. Therefore we give to those less fortunate in our community. Quite often your synagogue will have a collection for this purpose during Purim, so you won’t have to find someone in person. It should not be forgotten that one must give to at least two people during the day of Purim.
Finally, it wouldn’t be a proper holiday without a feast! The Purim feast should start in the afternoon and go well into the evening, should be held with family, but inviting friends is a good idea too! If you want to build your Purim vocab, check out My Jewish Learning’s must-know list.
Dressing up in fun Purim costumes is another key tradition. We’ve heard a few reasons for this, one speculates that costumes keep the givers and receivers of charity anonymous. The second reason is because Mordechai was dressed up as the king when he is celebrated and rewarded for saving the king’s life. The custom to drink and dress up stems from a statement in the Talmud attributed to a rabbi named Rava that says one should drink on purim until he can no longer distinguish between arur Haman (‘Cursed is Haman’) and barach Mordechai (‘Blessed is Mordechai’).Either way, the masquerade is a wonderful opportunity to dress up like your favorite characters from history, film, or pop culture.
If this is your first Purim as a couple, consider a couple’s costume! They’re always popular and a fun way to express your togetherness. Blockbuster movies are always a great source of inspiration: you could go as characters from Toy Story 4 or Avengers: Endgame.
Purim has it all: theatrical spiels and playful costumes, festive treats like hamantaschen, the giving Mishloach Manot and tzedaka, and the retelling of one of the great stories of victory in our past. And let’s not forget the feasting, drinking, and celebrating until “Al D’lo Yoda” (‘until one cannot distinguish’) Purim truly is one of the most fun holidays, so make this Purim a joyful one!