Our first major holiday of the year, Purim is focused on food, friends and charity. Purim lasts for three days. It’s a celebration around the story of Esther.
The really short version of the story is this: Esther was a beautiful woman in the Persian King Ahasuerus’s Empire. He made her his wife, not knowing that she was secretly Jewish. The king’s right hand man, Haman wasn’t very nice to the Jewish people and was plotting to kill them all. Esther organized a banquet to be held over three nights, and on the second night she told the king her secret. He loved Esther and therefore her people, and agreed to give Jews more rights including the right to defend themselves [which they didn't have previously] and on the 3rd night of the feast Haman was hung in the gallows. Therefore, we created a holiday to remember and celebrate Esther and her King and what they did for us!
There are four things we try and do during Purim. These are:
- Listening to a public reading, usually in synagogue, of the Book of Esther. [During the reading we hiss, boo and rattle noise makers whenever Haman's name is mentioned. Silly, but fun!
- Create food baskets and gifts for our friends and neighbours to show our appreciation for all of the people in our lives.
- Give charity to the poor.
- Eating a festive meal with friends and family
Masks are popular to wear during the Purim feast as would have been enjoyed during the banquets in Esther's day. Children and adults alike are encouraged to dress up in costume either depicting court entertainment [i.e. jesers and clowns] or the historical characters. The favored costumes are King Ahasuerus, Queen Esther, jesters and animals. Costume parties are often arranged for the children to show off their costumes and have mini-feasts.
During Purim we bake and create gift baskets, known as Mishloach Manot, which is yiddish for ‘the giving of portions.’ Hamantashen, a triangular shaped cookie meant to represent the shape of Haman’s hat are baked especially during Purim prominently displayed in these baskets.
Charity is also a very important part of Purim. We focus on helping people less fortunate by raising money, donating time, products and services. Young children are encouraged to raise funds to give to a charity. Purim is an opportunity to encourage social responsibility in children through a fun and positive holiday.