Purim is a Jewish holiday which falls this year on Monday 6th March to Tuesday 7th March.
What is Purim?
Purim is a joyous holiday that recounts the saving of the Jewish people from a threatened massacre during 539-330 BCE, the Persian Period.
Purim means ‘lots’ and is sometimes referred to as the Feast of Lots.
What is the history of Purim?
According to the Book of Esther in the Torah, the Jewish people in the city of Shushan were threatened by Haman, the villain, who was a prime minister, and who convinced the King Ahasuerus to kill all Jewish people.
This is because Mordecai, who was Jewish, refused to bow down to Haman.
In the end, the Jewish people were saved by Queen Esther, who was Mordecai’s niece, and who married Ahasuerus.
When Ahasuerus discovered his wife Esther was Jewish, he decided to reverse Haman’s decree, therefore instead of the Jewish people being killed, Haman, his sons, and other enemies were killed instead.
How is Purim celebrated?
The holiday begins with dressing up in costume: some choose to dress as characters from the story of Purim, and others dress in non-Purim-related costumes.
It is a mitzvah (commandment) to listen to the Purim story chanted from Megillat Esther (“The Scroll of Esther”) and to hear each word.
Customary is to make a loud noise with a noisemaker called a ra’ashan (Hebrew), or grager (Yiddish), every time Haman’s name is mentioned. This is done to fill the obligation of blocking out Haman’s name.
Also, giving gifts or charity to the poor, called matanot l’evyonim is part of the holiday.
Another tradition is to perform a Purim spiel, a satirical show dramatizing the Purim story in a humorous way.
Why do people dress up on Purim?
The tradition dates back to the 14th-century but there are a few deeper meanings behind the long-standing custom.
- The hidden nature of the miracle
- Concealing true identities
- The special role of clothing
When is Purim celebrated?
On the Hebrew calendar, Purim is celebrated on the 14th of Adar. This is the day after the Jewish people emerged victorious against the evil Haman.
Shushan Purim is celebrated on the 15th of Adar because the fighting lasted for two days.
Also, some Jewish people observe the Fast of Esther, this takes place from dawn until dusk on Purim even and is observed to commemorate Esther’s three day fast before meeting the King.