When it comes to holidays, there are few so joyous as Purim. In fact, this springtime celebration is often described as “Jewish Mardi Gras” for its revelrous nature. Just what makes Purim such a mirth-filled occasion and how will you do it justice this year? Let’s take a closer look at all things Purim.
All About Purim
Purim celebrates the salvation of the Jews in ancient Persia from prime minister (and anti-Semite) Haman’s decree “to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, infants and women, in a single day.” According to the story, young but savvy Queen Esther uses her influence on her husband, King Ahasuerus, to stop the plot, bring down Haman, and save her people.
Purim is celebrated on the 14th and 15th of Adar, the Jewish Calendar’s 12th month. This year, it begins at sundown on March 23rd and continues through the next day.
Purim comprises four mitzvahs, including listening to the Megillah, a.k.a. “The Book of Esther,” giving to the needy, sending food gifts to friends, and sharing a special feast.
While Jews fast from dawn until dusk on the eve of Purim, all bets are off on the following day. In fact, Jews are encouraged to eat and drink until they “no longer know the difference between ‘cursed be Haman’ and ‘blessed be Mordechai,'” according to a passage from the Megillah.
The Role of Food in Purim
You may have noticed that food is heavily entrenched in the rituals of Purim. While there’s no set Purim meal, hamantaschen, AKA “Haman’s pockets” in Yiddish, top the list of “signature” Purim foods. In Hebrew, these tasty, triangle-shaped, fruit-packed pastries are known more graphically as oznay Haman, which translates to “Haman’s ears.”
Also making its way onto many a Purim table are kreplach, small squares of pasta filled with different kinds of meat, and either boiled and served in soup or fried and served with sour cream and applesauce.
A Holiday for Sharing
But Purim isn’t just about serving food in your own home; it’s also about spreading joy through the sharing of food. According to tradition, ready-to-eat food is delivered via a third party to Jewish friends during Purim’s daylight hours.
Known as Mishloach Manot or Shalach Manot, these gifts of food and drink typically include everything from nuts, chocolate and dried fruit to hamantaschen and challah. They are also sometimes packaged in decorative baskets.
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