What is Purim?
For many people, Jewish holidays are shrouded in an air of mystery, and Purim – since it’s lesser known among non-Jewish people – can be even more enigmatic. It can be intimidating or awkward to figure out the best way to approach someone and ask what their holidays are all about. So, we’re here to shed a bit of light on Purim: a holiday that you may have never heard of, and certainly, have some questions about.
When Is It Celebrated?
First, Jewish people celebrate Purim on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar. This year, that falls on March 11th and will go into March 12th. The holiday remembers a time when Haman, King Ahasuerus’ vizier, plotted to destroy the Jewish people. But Esther, the King’s wife – who was Jewish – unraveled the plot, and saved them. This story is recorded in the Book of Esther. While celebrating Purim, people read this book twice during the celebration.
With its history, you’ll be surprised to know that Purim is one of the most colorful holidays in the Jewish tradition. In fact, imagine a carnival filled with your loved ones – it’s a lot like that. Family feasts include delicious pastries, and everyone celebrates together. The holiday’s timing for the holiday adds to the festive feel, too. In many countries, spring is coming; many families like to enjoy part of their celebrations outside. In the US, it’s tax season, and many families have a little bit of extra money they can use to indulge in the feasting and parties.
How do People Celebrate Purim?
That extra money is very helpful, since two of the traditional ways to celebrate the holiday revolve around giving. First, it is customary to exchange gifts with your loved ones. The most popular gifts during Purim include kosher foods, sweets, and drinks. This tradition is called “mishloach manot,” and it’s a great way to appreciate the people you love. The second important tradition is to donate to the less fortunate. This tradition is called “mattanot la-evyonim” in Hebrew. You can the way you like: from volunteering time, to donating food or money to your favorite charity.
Purim is about celebrating the fortune you have, and sharing that wealth, love, and happiness with those around you. This explains all of the really fun events. Friends and family gather for feasts and to read the Torah together. They drink wine, wear colorful masks, dress in (sometimes extravagant) costumes, and perform Purim plays (often retelling the story of Esther). Plus, the skits don’t have to be religious. You can dress up as your favorite hero, or character if the event is casual. Purim is a time for family fun with a serious message of gratitude and remembrance.
In the spirit of Purim, if you get a gift this March, then consider sending one back. Even if you’re not celebrating this holiday, it is always just nice to return generosity with another act of kindness. To stay true to Purim, make sure your gifts are kosher, delicious, and made to share. Gourmet gift baskets or sweet assortments are the perfect things to send to a family to help them enjoy this holy day. And if we’re honest food is always a welcome surprise!