Purim 2010 – end of Shabbat on Saturday, 27th of February until Monday, 1st of March.
An old joke goes something like this:
Child: “What holiday are we celebrating today, Ima (Mother)?”
Mother: “The one where they tried to kill us and failed. Now, let’s eat!”
Of course, the very thing that makes most jokes funny is the kernel of truth at their foundation. Purim is one of the holidays containing that very kernel of truth.
In short, the story itself has four main characters:
- Ahashverosh – The Persian King, living in his capital city Shushan. He isn’t a bad man, just easily swayed by others.
- Mordechai – The leader of the Jewish people at that time. Helps save Ahashverosh’s life by uncovering an assassination plot. Later slated for death, but rescued by:
- Esther (Persian name)/Hadassah (Hebrew name) – Mordechai’s niece who is chosen to marry Ahashverosh after he has his original wife, Vashti, is killed for refusing to dance (supposedly naked) in front of revelers at his lengthy (180 days) party.
- Haman – The true villain of the story, Ahashverosh’s Prime Minister, who tries and fails to have Mordechai and the Jewish people killed.
crowns from Leslietsy
You can glean most of the story from above. In the end, Esther/Hadassah begs Ahashverosh to save her life and the lives of her people. Of course there are twists and turns to the story. But, in the end, the Jewish people triumph, Haman and his sons are killed, and Mordechai becomes the new Prime Minister to Ahashverosh. You can read the story with more details here.
Purim is preceded by the Fast of Esther, remembering the three-day fast of the Jews before their battle fought as part of that episode in Jewish history/lore. The Fast is usually observed on the 13th day of the Hebrew month of Adar. This year the Fast of Esther falls on Shabbat (Saturday), so it should be observed on the previous Thursday, Feb. 25th, rather than Saturday, the 27th.
Purim itself is a joyful holiday filled with costumes, noisemakers, gifts of food, charitable giving and, of course, feasting. The representative food for Purim is a triangular shaped pastry with fruit, poppyseed, or nut fillings called Hamantaschen, named for Haman and representing the three-cornered hat he wore as Prime Minister.
earrings by TraceyLipman
On the evening before Purim, and on Purim itself, people go to the synagogue wearing costumes (especially children) and having noisemakers, usually in the form of groggers. The Megillah, or Book of Esther, is read and every time Haman’s name is mentioned, everyone “blots out his name and his memory” by shouting or using their noisemakers.
costumes by GoofingOff
During Purim people make plates of goodies and deliver them to neighbors and friends. This is known as mishloach manot (sending of portions). Additionally, it is customary to make a charitable donation to the poor.
Finally, the holiday involves a festive meal with eating and drinking – celebrating one more victory in the history of the Jewish people.