Purim is, as my husband explained, “one of the fun holidays.” When you compare it to the more reflective High Holidays, you can certainly understand why it gets that description!
Purim celebrates the events that are written about in the Book of Esther. Now this story has everything a gripping tale needs. Palace intrigue! An evil plot thwarted by a beautiful queen! I’ll try to tell the shortened version, but I’d recommend looking it up for a more thorough read.
Esther is a beautiful young woman in the harem of the King of Persia. She is Jewish, but no one knows that. Her cousin Mordecai falls on the bad side of Haman (booo hissss…you are supposed to do that anytime his name is mentioned) and Haman decides, in a stunningly dramatic act of revenge, that he is going to kill all of the Jews in the kingdom.
He builds a large gallows and casts lots to decide on a date (Purim actually means “lots”). When Mordecai hears about the plan, he goes to Esther and tells her that she has to go to the king and ask him to stop the plan.
This is easier said then done. If Esther goes to see the king without an invitation, she could be put to death. So, she fasts for three days and asks everyone to pray for her. Then, she dresses in her best outfit and goes to the see the king. Luckily, he is happy to see her and she is able to invite him and Haman (booo….hissss) to a feast that she is giving.
At that feast, she invites them to ANOTHER feast the next night. At this feast she begs the king to save her life and the life of her people. Naturally, the king is floored that anyone would be trying to hurt her. While there is a bit more to the story, the important bits are that in the end, Haman (boo…hisss) is hanged on the gallows he had built for Mordecai and the Jewish people in the kingdom are saved.
I’d say that is reason to celebrate! Our interfaith group has a Purim Carnival every year so that people can really get into the spirit of celebrating! We also eat a lot of hamantaschen, which means “Haman’s Pockets” and are supposed to look like his tri-cornered hat.
The expectations for this holiday are pretty easy to follow. You are supposed to listen to the reading of the Book of Esther (costumes optional but often encouraged, as are noisemakers to drown out the name of Haman). You are also expected to eat, drink and make merry. Finally, you should give to those less fortunate then you.