If you aren't Jewish, Purim is a great time to consider converting. More than any other holiday, Purim is the one to celebrate. This year it falls on March 19 and 20, which makes it even more fun. Weekend holiday!
Purim is celebrated every year on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar. This year there are two Adar months because it's a leap year (yes the Hebrew calendar has a whole leap MONTH!). Like most Jewish holidays, Purim begins at sundown on the previous day.
Every Purim, we tell the story of Queen Esther, the beautiful queen who helped save Jews from Persian persecution with her great beauty and intelligence. But it's also the only holiday where the Jews kick back and get a bit crazy. Growing up, it was always my favorite. Here are five reasons:
Fun: During Purim, the Megillah (Book of Esther) is read aloud in the synagogue and it's an occasion on which much loudness and crazy behavior are encouraged. Every time the book mentions Haman, the bad guy in the story (54 times total), adults hiss, stamp, and generally boo while children present might have noisemakers (some adults do, too), and everyone makes as much noise as possible.
Food, specifically Hamantaschen: It's actually required by the Book of Esther that Purim is celebrated by feasting. And what a feast it is. Purim food is delectable, but best of all is the Hamantaschen, a cookie that is made to look like the hat of Haman, the villain according to the Book of Esther. The buttery dough is folded like a three-corner hat and filled with fruit -- prunes, raspberry, and even poppy seeds are popular. Honestly, my main childhood memories of Purim (we weren't at all religious) revolve around this cookie.
Charity: A major part of the holiday involves the giving of food and of charity. This can be accomplished through financial donations (and through the giving of Hamantaschen), but the minimum "suggestion" to fulfill the mitzvah (good deed) is two gifts of food to one person and two gifts of charity to needier people.
Drunkenness: Wine is a major part of the feast. In fact, one is officially supposed to drink on Purim until he can no longer distinguish between the phrases "Cursed is Haman" and "Blessed is Mordecai." That's pretty darn wasted, no? Why not?! It's a mitzvah! Obviously all of this depends on who your rabbi is and what denomination of Judaism you practice, but I always like to choose my congregations wisely, i.e. the ones where public intoxication is encouraged.
Costumes: The costume parade wasn't part of Purim originally, but since masquerading became popular during carnivale and Purim fell around the same time, it's believed that the costumes were adopted then since it was seen as part of the general "partying" atmosphere Purim conjures. Whatever the reason, the costumes are a blast for the kids (and for the adults, too), and for Halloween freaks like myself, they give a good excuse to recycle those costumes we put in the closet back in October.
Do you celebrate Purim? What do you do?
Image via miss pupik/Flickr