Purim is not the Jewish festival of Passover, when our people escaped slavery to be free. It is not about the oil burning longer than imagined and restoring the temple. Purim is not about presents though we give bundles and presents to those who are in need. It is not spinning a dreidel or casting down our eyes in mourning. Purim is, quite simply, the reciting of another story. A story and historical account of redemption. Good overcame. The Jewish people continued to live despite a wicked plan dreamed up by Haman, the prime minister of the Persian kingdom, who wanted to exterminate all Jews, young and old, on one single day chosen by lottery. Purim actually means “the casting of lots/die.” Jews all over the world celebrate in a feast with wine, costumes, sweets, also reading or chanting from the Book of Esther, or Megillat Ester מגילת אסתר.
What’s the deal?
It all took place in the kingdom of Shushan, or Susa, which is Persia, or modern-day Iran. The story has everything you could ever want! Honestly, it reads like a telenovela or true soap opera. There is Queen Vashti who refuses to come entertain for a drunken, prideful King Ahasuerus during a seven-day wine-laden festival. She later loses her title, is exiled, and must leave the kingdom. There is that same embarrassed and angered king who then seeks out another queen. Believe it or not, there is a competition, call it a Miss Persia, if you will. The beauty must have been astounding. Hadassah, or Esther, in English, enters. Her uncle/adopted father is on payroll within the palace. He is the one who enrages Haman when he refuses to bow in worship. (As a devout Jew, Mordechai will not bow to any man, only G-d). Mordechai uncovers a wicked plan– Haman seeks to murder all of the Jews. If they do not bow to him in worship, they must be exterminated. It is by placing the lovely Esther in the role of the queen that the exciting work of overturning the wicked, brutal plans of Haman begins.
The thing is, the King has no idea that his new wife, Esther, is Jewish. She has to be quite wise. She has to rise to the occasion and realize that “for such a time as this”, she has been placed in such a relationship. There is a hope and a power, but she must tiptoe. She must be wise. It is a fun and dynamic story to read with kids and whooping adults.
Best Purim Links
Shalom Sesame’s animated story
Shalom Sesame’s look at how children in Israel celebrate Purim
Here are printable puppets to re-enact the Purim story!
View this full-length movie about Queen Esther, A Night With the King. Get your popcorn and your groggers!
You’ll need the following to really get in the Purim mood:
Noisemakers, also called “groggers” to wheel and shake and clamor with at every mention of “Haman”. We want to drown out the villainy of his name. Gather all the noisy bits you can find. We used pebbles, larger rocks, popcorn kernals, and beads. You can also use coins, dry beans, you name it. Just drown out Haman’s name.
Shout out “Boo” upon hearing Haman’s name throughout the story, too. Fawn and sigh and “Awwwww” at every mention of the beloved Esther. She is the heroine and we remember that. Cousin Mordechai wins the hollers and “yays” of the crowd, as we celebrate his bravery and the way he, with Esther, and ultimately, God, prevails over the evil foe, Haman.
Kids and adults dress up as the characters in this play. Young girls play the role of Queen Esther and not only emulate her beauty, but her bravery and wisdom. She is a true princess/queen, for her heart that sought the good of her people while honoring the king. Congregations and parties celebrating Purim don’t always stick to dressing like the characters from Purim. Often times, anything goes–any superhero, any costume, no holding back. Purim is fun. It is a parade and a raucious party, especially in Israel.
Because Haman wore a triangular hat (see above pink cup which my daughter turned into a noisemaker/grogger), we also make Purim cookies in the shape of Haman’s hat. This is called hamantaschen, or Haman’s hat. So, make or buy those scrumptuous hamantaschen to celebrate!
How about starting with the famed Joan Nathan, as she leads you through a video? We usually make the classics–apricot (from Persia), sesame seed, or various jam varieties with lots of zest and sometimes liquor. One year, I made melted molten candy hamantaschen, featuring vivid Jolly Ranchers.
Imagine a palace bursting with decadent feasts and all of the spices and fragrant ingredients of Persia, modern-day Iran? Figs, apricots, pistaci0-encrusted lamb, golden saffron, sweet rose water! The list goes on. I found these inspirational dishes, but imagine what you could do… Here is a recipe for saffron taffy, or one here, for pistachio blondies with rose water!
Gifts for Others
Thanks to Esther’s decree for a fast as she prayed for wisdom, there is a tradition of giving to the poor and anyone who would be blessed to receive food/treats/etc.
They are to observe these as days of feasting and gladness, and for sending delicacies to one another, and giving gifts to the poor. (Esther 9:22)
Families and congregations continue this today, making and giving Mishloach Manot, pre-made food gifts to the poor. Contributions of money are also given. There you have it, the whole megillah, or story! Hag Purim sameach! Happy Purim! We’ve covered the story, noisemakers, costumes and food. Have you celebrated Purim? What, hands-down, makes it memorable for you? If you’re considering diving in, what looks most inviting about Purim?
Read Purim: 5 Reasons Why It Is My Favorite Jewish Holiday to see how another Multicultural Kids Blogger answered these questions.
Thanks so much to Multicultural Kid Blogs! The diversity and love is astounding.