Jewish: Feast, masquerade and be merry on Purim

It’s common to wear masks on Purim to symbolize God’s hidden presence in the Book of Esther. Photo in public domain courtesy of flickrSUNSET WEDNESDAY, MARCH 7:
Happy Purim from ReadTheSpirit!

(And, yes, we link to the Maccabeats, below.)

Purim may be a relatively minor holiday in the Jewish year, but there’s no question: It’s fun!
Think of the hilarity of some pre-Lenten festivities (no, not as raucous as as New Orleans Mardi Gras, of course) or Halloween with its costumes and sweet treats.
Of course, as the Huffington Post reports, “Is Purim the Jewish Halloween? Some Jews Say No.”
Supporting a Halloween-Purim connection, however, Huffington Post quotes Rabbi Arthur Nemitoff of Congregation B’nai Jehudah, a Reform synagogue in Overland Park, Kansas. Post reports: He let his children, now grown, also trick-or-treat on Halloween. “It’s a pagan and Christian holiday but it’s one of those weird holidays that has virtually lost its Christian meaning,” he said. “It’s hard for me to object as a rabbi.”

What’s Purim really about?

Jews end the Fast of Esther tonight and feast, masquerade and drink in a joyous festival known as Purim. Jews recall Queen Esther and the victory she managed to pull off for the Jewish people in the face of the Persian Empire’s crushing power. Because they were saved from destruction and won over their foes, Jews celebrate gaily and throw parties for adults and children alike. The masks and costumes associated with Mardi Gras are echoed in Purim’s customs as celebrants dress up to symbolize God’s “hidden presence” in the events of the Book of Esther. (Find related articles and more at or

Unique: Getting drunk on Purim isn’t a bad thing

Purim day begins with a reading of the Book of Esther, which is often done publicly in the synagogue. As the evil Haman’s name is read—which occurs 54 times—Jews stomp their feet and rattle noisemakers, to “blot out” his name. (Wikipedia has details.) Some Jews even write Haman’s name on the bottom of their shoes, so as to literally stomp on his name! Following services, the faithful share food with one another and partake in a feast, which requires adults to drink until many can’t tell the difference between “cursed by Haman” and “blessed be Mordecai.” (Get a list of Purim recipes from the Cleveland Jewish News.) One particular food exchanged on Purim is Hamantaschen, “Haman’s pockets,” which consists of sweet pastry filled with prunes or poppy seeds.

Traditonal Purim costumes reflect the various roles in the story of Esther. However, as Jewish organizations continue to make merry on this ancient holiday, new ideas arise—including cultural themes that tie Purim with the 21st century: themes like Harry Potter, “Glee” and “Jersey Boys” have gained popularity in recent years. (Read more in the Jewish Exponent.)

Care to read more about the ‘Shushan Variation’ of Purim? Or, want to hear that fun Purim song by the Maccabeats? Click here to read our 2011 Purim story, which included both an explanation of the variation in Jerusalem, called Shushan—and, perhaps more importantly, a video clip of the Maccabeats.

Originally published at, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.

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