The Jewish holiday of Purim is nearly here. But what is Purim day? Also known as the Jewish halloween, Purim is a roaring party of crazy costumes and intriguing traditions. This important date in the Jewish calendar celebrates their escape from persecution during the time of the Persian empire.
The story of Purim
In the biblical story of Purim, Haman is an evil advisor to the King of Persia. One day a Jewish man named Mordecai refuses to bow to him, which drives Haman to devise a plot to exterminate the jews.
Haman starts by giving an anti-Semitic speech to the king and offers to pay him for permission to kill the Jewish people. With the king’s blessing, he immediately starts planning his next move. However, Mordecai discovers Haman’s intentions and visits his cousin Esther, who was on of the favourites in the king’s harem, and asks her to plead with the king. In spite of the fact that she could be killed for merely visiting the ruler, Esther bravely agrees.
Esther proceeds to honor the king with two feasts and begs him to have mercy on the Jewish people. Fortunately for the Jewish, Esther convinces the king to retract the orders that he had given to Haman and for him to be hanged. This act of courage from Esther is now commemorated every year.
When is Purim in 2020 and how is it celebrated?
This year Purim starts at sunset on March 9th and finishes at nightfall the following day. The word Purim translates as lots; therefore, this Jewish holiday is celebrated with wild costumes, delicious pastries and copious amounts of booze. In fact, the custom for over indulging stems from a statement in the Talmud (a central text in Judaism) from a rabbi named Rava. He stated that one should drink on Purim until he can no longer distinguish between arur Haman (‘Cursed is Haman’) and baruch Mordechai (‘Blessed is Mordecai’).
Often, the celebrations start with a reading of Esther’s story; throughout the reading the mere mention of Haman is drowned out with boos, hisses or the clacking of graggers. Other customs include the eating of triangular biscuits filled with fruit or chocolate called hamantash. Some claim these weird-shaped treats represent the ears of Haman. Ok, that still might not make sense, but cutting people’s ears off was a common punishment back in ancient Persia.
After these more family-friendly traditions, the party kicks off. Many dub Purim as the Jewish Mardi Gras due to its parades, drinking and outrageous parties.
Where to go to experience the best Purim celebrations
Unsurprisingly – because of its dense Jewish population – New York is a must-visit during Purim. Arguably, however, the celebrations in Israel even trump the Big Apple. On the day of feast this middle eastern country is a sea of vibrant parades, dressed-up locals, street parties and even Zombie walks. Yes, you read that right. Sometimes local Israelis tie-in one of the biggest zombie walks in the world with the yearly celebrations.
So now you know what Purim is, why not join the party on a trip to Israel?