“These days should be remembered and observed in every generation by every family, and in every province and in every city. And these days of Purim should never fail to be celebrated by the Jews—nor should the memory of these days die out among their descendants.” Esther 9:28

What is Purim?

The book of Esther tells the story of Persian Jews Mordecai and his cousin, Esther, who becomes queen to the famed Persian King Xerxes. This takes place during Xerxes’ reign in the Babylonian Empire between 486-465 BCE.

Esther reveals an evil plot by the villain Haman to annihilate the Jewish people and saves her people. To celebrate their day of deliverance, Mordecai called for a feast, called Purim. This feast was then added to the seven Levitical feasts celebrated each year. Purim gets its name from the pur, or lots, that were cast as Haman determined the day on which to kill the Jews.

The holiday starts with a pre-Purim fast to remember Esther’s fast before approaching King Xerxes, then a feast with a public reading of the Esther scroll, giving gifts to the poor, giving food to friends and eating hamantaschen cookies.

In 2018, Purim begins at sundown on Wednesday, February 28 and ends at sunset on Thursday, March 1.

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Purim 101

Reading “the Whole Megillah”

The Hebrew word for scroll is megillah. You may have heard the phrase “the whole megillah,” which is a saying that implies a long-winded and detailed story.

The entire book of Esther is read through twice during this holiday. The whole congregation gets involved in the reading to cheer when Mordecai’s name is read and to boo, hiss, and use noisemakers as Haman’s name is read aloud.

Megillat Esther (The Book of Esther) at the Library of Congress

Haman’s Hat Cookies

Photo of hamantaschen cookies for Purim
Hamantaschen cookies for Purim, via Time.com

A tasty part of this celebration is the hamantaschen cookies. They are triangular-shaped filled cookies named after Haman, the villain in the story. Hamantaschen is a German word that translates to Haman’s pockets, although many people call them Haman’s hats after the 3-cornered hat shape.

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