SUNDOWN SATURDAY, MARCH 19: Get ready to make some noise! Put on a mask! Eat and drink merrily! Tonight begins the Jewish festival of Purim. Sometimes compared to the festivities of Halloween, Purim actually may feel closer to a carnival atmosphere. Jewish men, women and children bring noisemakers to the synagogue, dress up to symbolize God’s hidden presence in the book of Esther, give to the poor, and partake in an enormous feast that almost always includes wine. (The Jewish Virtual Library has more.)
Purim commemorates the survival of the Jews in ancient Persia—where a plot was hatched to destroy them all. (Read more at Judaism 101.) When the brave Queen Esther revealed her own true Jewish identity to the king, she saved the Jewish population from destruction. To appreciate the entire story, read our earlier column about the Fast of Esther that begins this annual remembrance.
Purim celebrates Esther’s courage, the preservation of the Jewish people and the destruction of the enemies who were intent on destroying them. It’s not the most important holiday in the Jewish calendar—but it certainly is popular, especially for families with small children. Not only is the celebration colorful, but there are yummy treats like the tri-cornered, fruit-filled hamantash cookies pictured above. You’ll find guides to the holiday, multimedia resources and fun ideas for families at My Jewish Learning or Aish. And, you’ll find some great recipes are at Chabad.org.
THE SHUSHAN VARIANCE
Jews in Jerusalem mark Purim one day later. It’s a tradition known as Shushan Purim, an adaptation to the holiday that recalls another ancient element of the Esther story. The walled city of Shushan was the center of the Persian empire and the Jewish victory in Shushan unfolded a day later than in other parts of the empire. So, down through the centuries, the walled city of Jerusalem moved Purim a day later, as well. You’ll hear Shushan referenced in the hit song, below. (Wikipedia has more Shushan Purim details.)
Even as they celebrate, Jews are looking forward to Passover, which begins at sunset on April 18.
AND NOW … THE MACCABEATS WITH ‘PURIM SONG’
This year, everyone is buzzing about the sensational Maccabeats’ new hit, “Purim Song.” Sung to the tune of Pink’s “Raise Your Glass,” the upbeat, catchy song explains Purim with a unique twist. The Maccabeats formed at Yeshiva University in New York City in 2007—and now have millions of fans. You should see a video screen below. Click and enjoy! If you’re reading this holiday story in a format without a screen, try clicking this link to reload the entire story—and video.
(Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.)