Purim: Eat, drink and be merry! Jews celebrate a feast for Esther

baking sheet with triangle-shaped pastries filled with jam

Hamentaschen, or Haman’s pockets, are a popular treat for Purim. Photo by ulterior epicure, courtesy of Flickr

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 23: Synagogues resonate with the sounds of hissing, booing and stomping, today, in celebration of the Jewish festival of Purim. One of the most joyous festivals of the year, the story behind Purim evolved from an ancient plot to destroy the Jewish people and ended with Jewish victory and a renowned queen.

Today, Jews eagerly listen to readings from the Book of Esther, “blotting out” the name of the Jewish enemy—Haman—with noisemakers and clomping.

Purple and gold mask on top of Jewish text

Photo in public domain

STORY OF PURIM

The story of Purim is found in the pages of the book of Esther, in the Hebrew scriptures of the Bible. When the beautiful young Esther was taken to the house of Ahasuerus, the king of Persia, she hid her Jewish identity. The king’s advisor, Haman, hatched a plot to kill all of the Jews in the kingdom.

Did you know? The name of G_d is not mentioned in the book of Esther, and many Jews interpret this as indication that G_d works in ways that are not always apparent. On Purim, disguises and costumes serve as symbolism of G_d “hidden” behind the scenes.

Though Haman had already convinced King Ahasuerus to kill the Jews in Persia, Esther fasted for three days, approached the king and revealed her own Jewish identity, pleading with the king to save the Jewish population. Out of his love for Esther, the king hung Haman and his 10 sons, instead, on the gallows that had been prepared for Mordecai. The Jewish people in Persia were saved from the plot of Haman.

PURIM TODAY

To this day, many Jews still observe the Fast of Esther from dawn to dusk today. With the start of Purim, fruit-filled cookies are served, plenty of wine is consumed and comical skits entertain jovial audiences. In many Jewish communities, outrageous costumes add to the fun.

Food for Purim: Purim’s signature cookies are known as Hamantaschen, or “Haman’s pockets.” Seeds and nuts serve as a reminder that Queen Esther ate these while serving as queen, since she had no access to kosher food. Additionally, adult Jews are instructed to drink wine until they can no longer “distinguish between arur Haman (‘Cursed is Haman’) and baruch Mordechai (‘Blessed is Mordecai’).

Recipes! Our Feed The Spirit department features much more about Purim by Bobbie Lewis and includes a delicious recipe for Purim’s signature cookie: Hamentaschen. (Sometimes spelled with an “e” or an “a”—”Hamen …” or “Hamantaschen.”)

An array of Purim recipes can also be found at AllRecipes. Thirsty? Try making your own apricot-infused bourbon for Purim.

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