How much do you know about Purim, the Jewish holiday usually celebrated in March? Purim is often called the Jewish carnival, as people dress in costumes and are commanded to eat, drink, and be merry. But there is much more to this holiday’s history and to how it is celebrated today. Here are ten fun facts about Purim for kids to learn more about this festive time in the Jewish calendar.
10 Fun Facts for Kids About Purim
Purim celebrates the story of Esther, a Jewish heroine who saved her people from a massacre in ancient Persia (read the full story). Today, Jewish communities mark the anniversary of her bravery with joyous parties, charity, and gifts. Here are fun facts about Purim for kids – that adults may not know, either!
1. Purim is noisy.
The villain of Purim, Haman, is so reviled that whenever he is mentioned during the traditional reading of the story of Esther, or the megillah, on Purim, everyone shouts and uses noisemakers to drown out the sound of his name.
2. People eat hat-shaped cookies.
A traditional Purim treat, hamantaschen, is actually designed to represent the terrible Haman. Most think this is because these triangular cookies look like his three-cornered hat, though perhaps they are meant to be like his ears or his pockets.
3. Purim literally means “lots.”
The name refers to the lottery that Haman used to choose the date on which the Jews were to be massacred.
4. Purim is a very old holiday.
The earliest observances of Purim are believed to have taken place in the 5th century BC/BCE.
5. The Book of Esther is unique.
The Book of Esther is the only book of the Hebrew Bible that does not mention G-d. However, many believe the story shows how G-d works in ways that are not always apparent, as any time “the King” is mentioned, it’s a hidden reference to G-d.
6. It’s not just about parties and costumes.
Purim is also marked by acts of charity and sending baskets of treats to friends and family. And because Esther fasted for three days before putting into action the plan to save her people, the Jews, Purim is preceded by a day of fasting.
7. Depending on where you live, you might celebrate a day later.
Purim is celebrated one day later in walled cities than elsewhere because it took two days for the Jews who lived in the walled, capital city of Shushan to fight off their enemies. Those who lived in unwalled towns needed only one day. So in cities that have been walled since the days of Joshua (circa 1250 B.C.E.), Purim is celebrated on the 15th of the month of Adar, a date often referred to as “Shushan Purim.”
8. Some communities celebrate local Purims as well.
Many Jewish communities celebrate their own “Purims,” (which may take place anytime during the year) to commemorate when they were also saved from a terrible fate. Families may even have their own “Purim” to mark the salvation of an ancestor.
9. Purim was celebrated in 1945 in Dr. Joseph Goebels’ former castle.
In 1945, while World War II was still being fought, a group of American soldiers held Purim services in a castle that had belonged to Dr. Joseph Goebels. The Jewish soldiers explained to their non-Jewish comrades in attendance why it was so fitting that this particular holiday is celebrated here, and a “Jewish chaplain, carefully arranged the candles over a swastika-bedecked bookcase in Goebbels’ main dining room.”
10. Purim continues to be associated with the salvation of the Jewish people.
Several times in modern history, major threats against Jewish communities were thwarted on Purim, such as in 1953, when the death of Stalin on Purim stopped his vicious plans for dealing with the Jews in the USSR.
Want to find a Purim event near you? Go to this handy Purim event finder to locate celebrations around the world! This year boasts events in 308 cities and 19 countries. Also don’t miss this review of a new Purim storybook!
Purim 101 from My Jewish Learning
9 Things You Didn’t Know About Purim from My Jewish Learning
Purim from Judaism 101
What Is Purim? from Chabad.org