Jews Celebrate Purim

A brief look into the history and traditions of Purim

Purim is a Jewish holiday that is celebrated this year beginning on Wednesday night March 20 through Thursday March 21. The name, Purim, is a reference to “lots,” or the lottery of dates that Haman used to choose the time when the Jewish people would be eradicated. The date varies year to year as it’s based on the Hebrew calendar and not the Gregorian calendar. The celebration always falls on the 14the or 15th of the Hebrew month of Adar.

The holiday is recounted in The Book of Esther and celebrates the Jewish people being saved from a plan by Haman of Persia to eradicate all the Jews during the First Persian Empire. Fortunately, the royal advisor Haman was not successful in his bid for the eradication of the Jewish people owing to the fact the newly-crowned queen, Esther, was secretly Jewish. In the end, the plot failed, the Jewish people were saved, and celebrations now occur all the time.

In the modern incarnation of Purim, there are several ways that the holiday is celebrated. First and foremost, many people will go and hear the entire Megillah, The Book of Esther, read at their local synagogue. During the reading, when Haman is mentioned, it is often permissible to stamp one’s feet or use noisemakers, which can be exciting for younger listeners.

Following the religious component of the holiday, most people will give to the needy. Whether this is finding a person on the street who needs money or by giving to the synagogue collections for the poor, there are always people who are in need. Yet, there is more to the religious holiday than service; it is a very popular celebratory day.

On Purim, people will send packages containing two or more foods or beverages to their friends during the daylight hours of Purim, but the gifts are divided on gender. Men send to men and women to women. Usually, the presents are not delivered by the person giving the gift but by another. This is called the Mishloah Manot.

Finally, many will enjoy seudah, a festive meal during which you might spot people eating Hamantaschen, named for the villain of the story. This is a cookie that has a lot of different recipes but is commonly made in a triangle shape.

All in all, Purim is a popular holiday that occurs in spring, giving many people a chance to connect and celebrate with their communities.

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