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Purim is the Jewish holiday that commemorates the freedom of the Jews in ancient Persia. They were about to be wiped out by the Persian leader Haman in his effort to rid the empire of all Jews in one day. Purim is a happy celebration because Haman was unsuccessful. Although not explicitly mentioned in the religious texts, the liberation of the Jews was a result of the presence of God. This implication is one of the reasons for so much celebration. The customs that surround this holiday reflect faith in God and the hope that positivity reigns in daily life.
To discover more about the happy holiday of Purim, keep reading to discover:
- * A description of Purim
- * The history of Purim
- * When to celebrate Purim
- * Customs practiced during the holiday
A Description of Purim
Purim is the celebration of the liberation of the Jews in ancient Persia. The Book of Esther recounts this story. Purim is the occasion in which Jews enjoy a whole day of celebration and parties. People dress in costumes, eat food, dance, and give gifts. It is customary to fast the day before Purim to represent Esther’s praying and fasting to God so that Haman does not harm her people. Today, Jews celebrate with lively festivities.
Jews celebrate Purim on the 14th day of Adar, a month on the Jewish calendar. However, the Jewish calendar does not coincide with the Gregorian calendar, the exact date of the celebration varies. Therefore, the definitive date of Purim is the 14th of Adar. This means that Purim takes place in either February or March.
Purim translates to “lots” in ancient Persian. The occasion was named Purim because Haman tried hard to destroy the Jewish population in the Persian empire. There are many pronunciations of Purim, but it mostly depends on the region.
The History of Purim
The celebration of Purim has a rich history recounted in religious texts. In the 4th century B.C.E., the Persian empire covered lots of land, including land that belonged to Jewish populations. During this period, the Persian king- King Ahasuerus- executed his wife due to disobedience. He then searched for a new wife and found interest in a Jewish girl named Esther. He later married her.
Haman became the prime minister of the Persian empire and highly disliked the Jews. After the leader of the Jews of Persia- Mordecai- refused to bow to Haman, the evil prime minister convinced the king to wipe out the Jewish population of Persia.
Meanwhile, Esther kept her Jewish identity a secret from her royal husband. At the recommendation of Mordecai, Esther revealed that she was Jewish to the king and denounced Haman’s plot to kill all Jews. Mordecai also led the Jews of Persia to fast and pray to God so that Haman does not enact his horrific plan. The 13th of Adar was the randomly chosen date of execution.
The 13th of Adar is significant in that it was the intended day of execution of the Jews in Persia. Instead, they defended themselves and successfully defeated their enemies in power. Haman died, and Mordecai became the prime minister in his place.
The 13th of Adar was the day when the Jews proved their triumph; the 14th of Adar was when they rested after their success. As a result, Jews celebrate Purim on the 14th of Adar.
When to Celebrate Purim
The most common day to celebrate Purim is on the 14th Adar. However, this date can vary depending on location.
The common practice of Purim is on the 14th of Adar. For those who live in walled cities, the celebration of Purim is on the 15th of Adar because, historically, people who lived in walled towns did not hear of the occurrence at the same time as everyone else. Therefore, they started to celebrate the holiday one day after.
Another unique practice is for those who live in small towns. In the past, these groups of people often gathered either on Mondays or Thursdays to go to the market. They could only get together and celebrate Purim on the days they went to the market. Therefore, they celebrated Purim on the market day after the 14th of Adar. This custom is not practiced today but remains as an intriguing fact that gives a more in-depth look into Jewish traditions of the past.
Customs Practiced During the Holiday
As a very joyful event, there are many customs practiced during Purim. Most of which are community-based. More individualized activities include giving gifts to the poor and baking the traditional pastry known as hamantaschen, also called oznay Haman. It is also customary to read the book of Esther- called the Megillah- on the eve of Purim and on Purim.
Jews read the Megillah in the synagogue on the day of Purim. The reading is an exciting event as it is interactive, allowing people to cheer and clap when they feel. The Purim shpiel is another custom in which some people partake. This is a play that jokingly makes fun of some community leaders and other members. All in good fun, the tradition unites everyone together as a community and is a great way to have some laughs during this joyful holiday.
During Purim, many Jews, both children and adults, dress in costumes. There are many reasons for doing so. The most commonly known reason is because dressing up alludes to the occurrence of events that took place during the miracle of Purim. One would not be able to identify that the salvation of the Jews in Persia was a miracle until looking back. God did not explicitly announce that he would cause a miracle. Therefore, the miracle hid from the eyes of the Jews at that time. Just as the miracle hid, so do Jews who dress up.
All in all, Purim is the joyful observance of a miracle that occurred over 2,000 years ago. The celebration has religious roots, but it is an excellent reason to celebrate life and religion.