What is Purim?
Purim, which literally means "lots" and is also known as the Feast of Lots, is a Jewish holiday commemorating the Jews' rescue from persecution during the Persian Empire. The Jews of Shushan were threatened by the evil Haman, a prime minister who persuaded King Ahasuerus to slaughter all the Jews, according to the Torah's Book of Esther (because the Jewish Mordecai refused to bow down to Haman). Haman decides to carry out his scheme on the 13th of Adar by casting lots (thus the holiday's name). Queen Esther, Mordecai's niece (and adopted daughter) who married Ahasuerus, saves the Jews in the end (after he banished his first, rebellious wife Vashti). When Ahasuerus learns that his wife Esther is Jewish, he reverses Haman's decision, killing Haman, his sons, and other adversaries instead of the Jews.
How is Purim Celebrated?
Purim, the Jewish calendar's most riotous holiday falls on the 14th day of the month of Adar. Dressing up in costume for Purim begins with some people dressing as characters from the Purim story, while others dress in non-Purim-related outfits. It is a mitzvah (commandment) to listen to and hear every word of the Purim story chanted from Megillat Esther ("The Scroll of Esther"). Every time Haman's name is mentioned, it is traditional to create a loud noise with a noisemaker called a ra'ashan in Hebrew, or grager in Yiddish, to fulfill the requirement of blotting out Haman's name. Giving gifts or charity to the impoverished, known as matanot l'evyonim, is an important part of the celebration. A Purim spiel, a satirical presentation either dramatizing the Purim story in a comedic fashion or simply a funny skit on any topic, is a fun holiday custom.
When is Purim?
Purim falls on the 14th of Adar in the Hebrew calendar, the day after the Jews defeated Haman. Shushan Purim, on the other hand, is observed on the 15th of Adar since the battle lasted two days. Some Jews also observe the Fast of Esther, which takes place on Purim evening from dawn to sunset, and remember Esther's three-day fast before meeting the King.
Did you know that there are leap years on the Jewish calendar? The cycle of this ancient calendar is 19 years. Each cycle has seven leap years, each with an extra month (occurring in February-March). The two months are known as Adar I (the "extra" leap month) and Adar II in Jewish leap years. Purim is observed in Adar II, and Purim Katan is observed in Adar I (small Purim).
How to Greet Someone for Purim?
Say "Chag Purim Sameach!" to wish someone a joyous Purim.
What kinds of foods are eaten on Purim?
On Purim, Jewish communities give food, candy, and goodies to friends and family as Mishloach manot ("sending of portions"). In the evening of Purim, a joyful feast, or Seudat Purim, is customary. The Talmud even says that one should get so inebriated that they can't distinguish the difference between the phrases Arur Haman ("cursed is Haman") and Baruch Mordechai ("blessed is Mordecai"). Oznei Haman or Hamentaschen ("ears of Haman") is a triangular cookie filled with several varieties of jam or a poppy seed filling known as "mohn," which is meant to depict either Haman's ears or his three-cornered hat. Kreplach, little dumplings commonly filled with meat, mashed potatoes, or other fillings, are another traditional triangular-shaped snack. Other traditional foods include bean dishes, which recall what Esther ate in the king's palace to avoid eating non-kosher items. Purim is frequently celebrated with a vegetarian meal as a result of this Esther/legume tradition.
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