In the fallout to this year’s thread about Lent, it came out that all of the celebrations we were doing were all either Christian or post-Christian, and we really needed to branch out more.

So I did some research and Purim is one of the most accessible Jewish festivals out there, one of the festivals most open to outsiders, and one of the pure fun “they tried to kill us, they failed, let’s eat” holidays on the calendar.

How to do it right? Well, I got on the google:

Many Jewish people, especially children, in the United States use this event as an opportunity to listen to the Megilla (or Megillah) to relive the events that are told about the story of Esther, Mordecai and Haman. It is customary to twirl graggers (Purim noisemakers) and stamp one’s feet when Haman’s name is mentioned.

The Megilla, you say? I think I could do a fine Megilla! I had to improvise on the issue of “graggers” but I hope you enjoy it. (Sorry about the lighting in this one, I wanted to start it right at the beginning of sundown and finish after the sun was set but I had to work late.)

As for the second part of the celebration:

Many Jewish people give to the needy around this time of the year. Food baskets or food gifts are also given away. It is a time for people to celebrate and be merry. So some Jewish schools hold celebrations to remember the past and their heritage. Other groups or organizations hold Purim carnivals filled with activities, costumes, food and games. Special prayers, particularly the Al HaNissim prayer are also included in evening, morning and afternoon prayers.

So if you want to celebrate Purim in your own way as well and you don’t know if you can get away with a food basket (“What brought this on?” “Well, this website I’m on had a post…”), take a friend out to dinner, or breakfast, or lunch.

If you want to focus a little more on giving to the needy, you can mix the whole food basket/charity thing by donating to any of many fine organizations. If the Purim thing is having you say “maybe I’ll give to a Jewish charity”, there is Mazon. If you think, okay, it doesn’t need to be a Jewish charity, some good ones are Action Against Hunger, The Hunger Project, or, if you want to donate to something closer to home, Meals on Wheels. If humans aren’t your strong suit, Pets of the Homeless specializes in providing veterinary care to the pets of the homeless. If you’re more interested in food for the mind? Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library gets books into the hands of children on a monthy basis from birth until they’re ready to go off to school at age five.

And don’t feel like you have to give some extravagant amount. Give $10. Give $5. I know you feel like you ought to give $50 or $100 or more… but if we get 10 people to give $5, that’s like one person giving $50. It’s the little things that add up and we’re all in this together.

Happy Purim, everybody.

So… what’s the charity that you tend to throw $5 toward when you find yourself with an extra $5?

(Picture is “purim hamentashen“, cookies shaped like Haman’s (BOO!) hat. Picture taken by Nate Steiner who put it in the public domain.)

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11 thoughts on “Purim!

    • In my aunt’s neighborhood in Montreal (Snowden, for any Montreal-familiar lurkers in the audience), there was a block where an Israeli bakery was right next door to a Palestinian restaurant. The owners were friendly. They would both cook up a storm during Purim and then sell everything way cheaper than usual (I think they made up the difference on the booze :P) and then the baker would give everybody free hamantaschen. And some folks would show up in costume after Temple…

      I expect it was quite unorthodox, turning it into a restaurant event and having both kosher and halal food and all of that – but I felt very lucky that they liked having me around.

      Best. Purim. Ever.

      (Granted I only have 3 of them to choose between.)

      (ETA sorry I keep tinkering with this comment, I’m badly sleep deprived atm.)

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  1. Your supposed to get drunk at Purim. Its one of the few times of years where heavy drinking was allowed. Purim is as close as Judaism gets to a carnival, which isn’t really that close.

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    • Yep. Traditionally, you’re supposed to drink until you can’t tell the difference between Mordecai and Haman. Our temple provides bottles of scotch and vodka along the back wall for congregants to sample during the Megilla reading.

      There’s also often a Purim speil – a parody play, often musical, of the Megilla. Our jr choir spends a couple months writing and then rehearsing this every year. The theme this year was Zootopia so all the little kids could dress up in animal costumes (mostly animal themed onesie pajamas). And, small brag, my daughter got to play Ester this time. Ester was a rabbit. So of course there many jokes about the ‘Ester Bunny’. ;)

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        • Thanks!

          She did have fun. She wore a princess type dress over a fuzzy white sweater and fuzzy white slippers. Plus rabbit ears and a tail from the Easter section of a party store. One of her best friends played the king, and (slightly unusual) we had another girl play Haman (she had a Miss Piggy costume and that worked really well).

          All the kids had a great time. Most of them were in those animal onesie pajamas that have become popular, which was incredibly cute. My daughter’s 16 and has been assisting with teaching songs and prayers to the new (2nd-3rd grade) choir kids for a few years and started working as an asst teacher in the religious school kindergarten last fall. Ester Bunny was too cute a pun to pass up, but she almost should have been a hen instead because she had a small flock of little girls following her around after services.

          She says she doesn’t know what she wants to do as a career yet. I keep telling her that whatever field she chooses in college, she should consider getting a dual degree in education, because I think that’s where her heart really is.

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  2. I feel like that should have ended with, “And now you know…the rest of the story.”

    Fantastic job. I had never heard that story before because my religious education was turrible.

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  3. My Jewish co-worker who watched this told me that one of her favorite movies was One Night with the King, a Hollywood take on this story. She explained to me that the movie version does not exactly line up with the version found in scriptures… but hey. Cut out the slow parts, spice up some dialog here or there, maybe give Mordecai a little more to do than sit around the gate and you’ve got yourself a good date movie.

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    • Esther is the most secular book in the Bible. God gets nary a mention and it reads more like a tale from a 1001 Nights. Movie versions always put in too much God and don’t keep it true to its roots of palace intrigue and ethnic politics.

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