Purim is most Jewish kids’ favorite holiday. It’s got it all — costumes, pastries, noise, games.
Purim commemorates the thwarting of the plans to kill all the Jews in the Persian empire. The story is told in the Book of Esther, and dates to the 5th century BC.
Read on to learn a little bit about the holiday, the traditions associated with it, and how you can celebrate Purim in Charlotte.
In 2021, Purim starts the evening of Thursday, February 25th, and ends the evening of Friday, February 26th.
The greeting on Purim is “Chag Purim Sameach,” which means Happy Purim.
VERY abridged synopsis of the story of Purim
In the story of Purim, the most important characters are King Ahasuerus, Esther, Mordecai and Haman.
The king marries Esther, who keeps her Jewish identity a secret. Her uncle Mordecai discovers a plot by two palace guards to kill the king. The guards are apprehended and hanged, and Mordecai’s service is recorded in the court’s records.
The king appoints Haman as his viceroy. Haman likes power. Mordecai refuses to bow to Haman, angering him. So Haman plans to have Mordecai killed, and, finding out that he’s Jewish, plans to kill all the Jews in the empire as well. He gets the go-ahead from Ahasuerus.
Mordecai finds out and convinces Esther to tell the king that she’s Jewish. She does so at a banquet, revealing that Haman is planning to kill all the Jews, which includes her. Ahasuerus is enraged and instead orders Haman to be hanged.
Historians differ on the historical basis of the story, but we’ll focus on the culture and traditions.
The celebration of Purim differs from community to community, depending on level of observance and local culture, but most celebrate in these ways:
Reading the story
At gatherings, members of the community or religious leaders recite the Book of Esther from the scroll called the Megillah. Have you heard the phrase “The whole Megillah?”
During the reading, every time the name Haman is spoken, the listeners yell “Booo!” and shake noise-makers (called “groggers”) to drown out his name.
Food gifts and charity
It’s traditional to give food gifts, called “mishloach manot,” to others. Sometimes people put together many baskets of sweets, snacks and other food to give out.
It’s also traditional to give money to charities that help people in need.
The most well known food associated with Purim is the hamantaschen. A hamantaschen is a sweet pastry, rolled out, filled with poppy seed, fruit, or other filling, and then folded into a triangle. The shape of the pastry is often said to represent the three-cornered hat that tradition has Haman wearing.
Kreplach, a dumpling filled with cooked meat, and served in soup, is also frequently enjoyed during Purim.
There’s a long tradition of masquerading on Purim. At some Megillah readings, both children and adults dress in costume. At Purim carnivals, children dress in costume and play carnival games.
Traditionally children dress as characters from the story. You’ll see a lot of Esthers and Mordecais in particular. But, really, anything goes. In many communities, Purim is similar to Halloween — a really fun time for kids (and adults) to show their creativity and personality through their costumes.
A Purim spiel is a comical skit that can be a retelling of the Purim story, but also might not be. Today they revolve around anything that relate to Judaism at all, and include satire, music, and lots of silliness.
Purim in Charlotte
Enjoy hamantaschen, as well as some of the other traditional Purim experiences. You can expect more in-person experiences next year, including, most likely, a Purim Carnival.
Meshugganah is a pop-up Jewish deli, with a permanent location in the words. You can order a dozen assorted hamantaschen for $14, or a DIY hamantaschen “shape and bake” kit for $36. The kid-friendly kits make two dozen hamantaschen and an instructional video. Fillings are raspberry, apple butter and chocolate chips. Drive-thru pickup is at Temple Beth El, 5101 Providence Road, on February 25th, 2021, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Order here.
Temple Beth El
- February 20th, 9 a.m.: Purim Tot Shabbat, followed by a class on making hamantaschen.
- February 28th, 11 a.m.: Create Your Own Tropical Adventure Spiel
Temple Israel is hosting a couple of online events for Purim.
Chabad of Lake Norman
Chabad of Lake Norman is hosting an online Hamantash Bake! The event includes baking, with different fillings, and fun games and activities. You might want to follow the Facebook event, in case there are updates.
The event is taking place on on Zoom, on on February 25th, at 5 p.m. for kids, and 8 p.m. for adults. The cost of the Hamantash kit for the online event is $5.
Chabad of Charlotte
Chabad of Charlotte is hosting an in-person Purim celebration for children of all ages. It will be outdoors and socially distanced. It takes place Thursday, February 25th, 6 p.m. The event includes raffles, music, Mishloch Manot (food gift) exchange, and a Mega Animated Purim Story. Come in costume! RSVP by February 23rd by calling 980-250-3396 or by registering online. Chabad of Charlotte is at 6619 Sardis Road.
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