Today is Purim in the Jewish tradition! I like to think of Purim as Jewish Mardi Gras with a bit of Rocky Horror Picture Show thrown in for good measure — part carnival/part audience participation.
The main activity on Purim is reading the entire Biblical book of Esther. It tells the story of Esther, a Jew who became one of King Ahasuerus’ queens. When Haman decided to kill all the Jews in the land, Esther managed to convince King Ahasuerus of Haman’s nefarious ways, thereby saving the Jewish people. If that doesn’t sound super-fun to you, read on.
A bit of Rocky Horror Picture Show
Many people who show up at the synagogue on Purim bring a noise-maker. Most anything loud and obnoxious will do — a clacker, a whistle, even dried beans sealed in a paper cup. If a noise-maker, per se, is not available, booing, hissing, and stomping are also acceptable. As the book of Esther is read, everyone makes noise whenever Haman’s name is mentioned. He is, after all, the bad guy in this story.
And what about the carnival part?
Many Jews, especially the kids, dress up on Purim. Colorful masks, batman capes, silly wigs, and full-fledged costumes are all the rage on this particular holiday. Rabbis offer different explanations for the sartorial silliness, but it’s quite possible that the tradition was actually “stolen” from the Catholic Fat Tuesday revelers in Italy during the middle ages. At that time, Purim was celebrated with banquets that often included alcohol consumption. (See Esther 5:1-8 and 7:1-6 for that part of the story). Why not add a few masks and costumes since the Christians were dressing up anyway?
Purim is one of the most kid-friendly holidays in any tradition, so if you’re looking for a way to share the Jewish tradition with your kids, check out the schedule of festivities at your local synagogues.