If you have had the opportunity to walk down Main Street in Kew Gardens Hills, between 73rd Avenue and Jewel Avenue, you may have noticed an abundance of costumes on display in store windows. It may look like Halloween in March, but a different kind of celebration is behind the masks this time of year. Jewish communities around the world are gearing up for the global celebration of Purim, which falls on March 20th this year (Adar 15 in the Jewish calendar).
Purim is a celebration of freedom. A celebration of a miracle and two Jewish heroes, Mordecai and Esther. We celebrate their intervention, which we also consider a great miracle. We celebrate how Mordecai and Esther were able to avoid the command of the wicked Prime-minister, Haman. Haman wanted to annihilate an entire Jewish community in Persia 2400 years ago. His plan was overturned and we continue to celebrate today!
There are some great customs associated with Purim. As a Jewish community, we listen to the entire story, also known as The Megillah. The Megillah is also called The Book of Esther. Each time the wicked Prime-minister’s name (Haman) is read aloud, people use noisemakers (groggers) and make a lot of noise. This is especially fun for children. Speaking of children, this is a fantastic holiday for them. There are numerous Purim events in Jewish schools, synagogues, and Jewish community centers around the world. Children dress-up in costumes, some of the most popular are the characters in The Megillah (Purim story).
What is a Jewish celebration without food? There are some special foods that we enjoy during Purim. If you have been in a Jewish bakery recently, you probably have noticed the addition of cookies in the shape of a triangle, filled with jelly. These cookies are called Hamantaschen. They are symbolic of the hat Haman wore 2400 years ago. These are delicious and easy to make at home. You can find some delicious recipes for Hamantaschen over at joyofkosher.com. Speaking of food and a Jewish holiday. That’ right, there is more to it than just dessert.
It is customary to send Purim baskets (Shaloch Manot) to friends and family during Purim. These baskets contain as much food, or at minimum, two food items that can be eaten on the go. In school, children give out small packages that contain an apple and a Hamantaschen. It is also very important during Purim, and year round, to think of those people that don’t have enough to eat . People donate money to organizations that provide food for the needy. This is a big Mitzvah on Purim (good deed), as well as any other time of the year.
What is a Jewish celebration without friends and family? This is what a Purim feast is all about. An array of meat dishes, wine, and desserts are consumed. Songs about Purim and kids having fun is what it is all about.
Now, time to bake the Hamentaschen!!