Purim. Customs and Traditions
Top Customs and Traditions
Purim, or as it’s sometimes known as “The Festival of Lots”, is a Jewish festival celebrated annually on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar. Usually, during February. The backdrop is the Persian Empire of the 4th century BCE. With territories that extended over 127 different lands.
The Abridged Story of Purim
King Ahasuerus, the lands’ ruler, commanded his wife Vashti execution for failing to follow his orders. With a job vacancy, the Kings advisors arranged a national beauty pageant to find a new queen. A young maiden called Esther found favour in his eyes. She was crowned as Queen. Albeit that the King was unaware she was a Jewess.
In the Parliament, Haman, a Jew-hater, was appointed as Prime Minister. One of his first actions was to persuade the King to pass a law decreeing “that all Jews must bow down to him”. Mordechai, the Jewish Council leader and Uncle to Esther, refused to bow down before Haman. Enraged, Haman further convinced the King to order the death of all Jews throughout the territories. A lottery set the date of extermination. It was the 13th Adar.
Mordechai rallied all the Jews. He instructed them to repent, fast and pray. Meanwhile, in the Royal Palace, Queen Esther invited the King to a private feast. Once secure in the knowledge that the King adored her, she revealed her Jewish heritage. She explained to the King that Haman was planning to have her and her people killed. The King, furious with Haman, ordered his guards to hang him and appointed Mordechai as the new Prime Minister. Thus saving the Jews from destruction.
The liveliest celebrated Jewish festival is Purim. Regardless of your age, you are expected to don fancy-dress, even if it’s just a colourful hat or fancy mask. Parades and carnivals are arranged by the communities. It is a day of fun and festivies.
The most famous Purim food is hamentaschen, otherwise known and Haman’s pockets or ears. They are triangular-shaped biscuits traditionally filled with poppy seeds. Nowadays, the local baker will often fill them with chocolate, jam or custard. It’s traditional to share a celebration meal with your family, friends or community. The table centrepiece is often a sizeable braided loaf covered with multi-coloured sprinkles. The braids represent the rope used to hang Haman. Dishes with beans and pulses are also popular. These are a reminder that Esther would not eat meat in the Palace and kept a kosher diet. This meal is called a Se’udatSe’udat Purim. At the end of the meal, additional prayers called Al HaNissimare are sung.
People give each other gifts. Moreover, this gift must include a cooked item but often contain alcoholic beverage and sweets and crisps for the children. The gift-giving is called mishloach manot or translates to the “sending of portions”. Everybody should have enough food to be able to participate in the festive meal and celebrations.
The best gifts to give on Purim
The Purim story is read in synagogue on the evening of the 13th Adar and then on 14th Adar. However, so important is the hearing of the story that the Rabbi’s will travel from place to place reading the story of Purim. He will read it from a scroll known as a megillah.
But Purim is not only about dancing, drinking and eating. At the end of the reading money is collected in buckets by the leaders of the community and distributed by the Rabbi to the poor and needy. Known as mattanot la-evyonim.
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