When it is Purim, I think of my friends Georges Banet and Judith Klau, who introduced me to the holiday years ago one Purim with a mitzvah, a good deed. They brought me a Purim box that contained two hamantaschen, pastries in the shape of a triangular hat, filled with all manner of deliciousness (the ones they brought me were prune-filled and poppyseed-filled). The printed box explained the story of Purim, which essentially is this: In ancient Persia, Haman, the royal vizier to the king, plotted to kill all the Jews in the empire, but his plot was discovered and foiled by Queen Esther and her father, Mordecai. It’s a story from the Book of Esther.
Each year at Purim, the story is retold in the reading of the Megillah, and each time the name Haman is spoken, the congregation boos and hisses and twirls graggers to drown it out. The pastries are meant to evoke Haman’s hat. And then there are costumes! Purim is a bit like Halloween in springtime: kids dress up in costumes for the day and great parties ensue. The costumes traditionally call to mind the characters of the story, but don’t be surprised to see all kinds of costumes on Purim, which begins this year with the setting sun tonight, this last day of February. Gragger away!
Image: A 1951 photograph of elementary school students in costumes for the Purim parade at the Hebrew Reali School in Haifa. [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons. I love the fairy on the left.