Today is Purim! This festive Jewish holiday commemorates the bravery of a young girl, Esther, who saved her people from being massacred in Persia in the fourth century BCE. Her story, which is the basis of the Biblical Book of Esther, tells of how she won the heart and hand of King Ahasuerus with her great beauty. She kept her heritage a secret, but when her guardian, Mordecai, discovered the evil vizier Haman was going to have all Jews killed, she risked her life by revealing her identity to the king. Miraculously, the tables were turned on Haman, as the king adored Esther; her people were saved while Haman was put to death.
This wonderful holiday is celebrated with the community, and at the synagogue, the Scroll of Esther—the Megillah—is read. But don’t think this is a somber event! Every time Haman’s name is mentioned, the congregation hollers and shouts, and shakes graggers, or noisemakers, to drown out the evildoer’s name, which adds to the fun. Temples and community centers often host plays and carnivals, and the children dress up in costumes ranging from superheroes to Queen Esther herself.
Of course, a holiday wouldn’t be complete without delicious food, and Purim is no exception! One of the most important treats is hamantashen, a filled, three-cornered pastry named after evil Haman. Kreplach, a filled pasta, is also traditionally served at the seudah, or the celebratory meal. It’s definitely a day for partying!
Friendship and charity are important themes of Purim, and so people give gifts of food to friends and donations to those who are in need. After all, the joy of the day, and the miracle of good over evil is something that’s meant to be shared.