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Purim? What’s That?

It’s true that most everyone in America knows about Easter: there’s the Easter Bunny, the egg hunts, and the actual religious significance. But what about the Jewish holiday that every year lands only a few days away from Easter? Being a Jew myself, I decided that it might be a good idea to share some of my knowledge about the holiday: Purim.

The tradition is that when the story of Purim is told, the audience cheers when the name Mordecai (Whoo!) is said, and “Boo’s” for the name Haman. The story goes that there once was a man named Haman (Boo!), vizier to the king of the Persian Empire, who was planning to kill all the Jews in Persia. But, according to the Scroll of Esther (in Hebrew, the megillah), his plans were thwarted by Mordecai (Whoo!) and Esther, two Jews. Esther, adopted by her cousin Mordecai (Whoo!), grew up to be a beautiful lady, and was brought to the house of the King of Persia. The king loved her and made her queen, not knowing that she was a Jew. When Mordecai (Whoo!) learned that Haman (Boo!) had vowed to kill every last Jew in the empire, he convinced Esther to go talk to the king. She did, telling the king not to kill all of her people, and the king listened. The Jews were once again saved, and Haman (Boo!) was sent to the gallows.

We Jews like to have our own food and celebrations for Purim, just as Christians do for Easter. Like many other Jewish holidays, Purim is the celebration of the saving of the Jewish people. After the story is told along with some prayers and usually a talk by the Rabbi, everyone goes to celebrate. Celebrations include hamantaschen and carnivals. Google hamantaschen, and you’ll see that they’re little triangular cookies filled with fruit. For the carnival, at my temple this means buying raffle tickets, dressing in costume to resemble the people from the story of Purim, and then playing games (like the bean-bag toss) and eating food and candy. Besides Chanukah (AKA the holiday of chocolate coins, potato latkes, and presents), Purim comes pretty close to being the holiday every Jewish little kid loves—I mean, who doesn’t love dressing up and playing games?