Purim is a carnival festival that is based around the almost certainly fictitious events described the biblical book of Esther. It tells the story of how an evil man, Haman, appointed to a position of power by a foolish king, Ahasuerus, sought to destroy the Jews and ended up being destroyed himself thanks to the efforts of Queen Esther and her uncle, Mordecai. It is the classic example of the cliché often used to define Jewish festivals: ‘They tried to kill us. We won. Let’s eat.’
Purim falls on the fourteenth day of the month of Adar, which was the day after the date chosen by Haman as the day to carry out his evil plan.
In the Gregorian calendar, Purim tends to fall in March or April.
The megillah (scroll) containing the book of Esther is read in synagogues to a congregation which is attired in fancy dress, and who boo, pantomime style, whenever Haman’s name is mentioned, making noise to blot out his name. The giving of gifts to the less well-off is also a feature of this festival.
In its early days, Liberal Judaism did not celebrate Purim at all because of the level of violence in the book of Esther and the fact that the story was not historically true. In recent times, however, Liberal Jews have chosen to party along with all other Jews on this day!
It is traditional to eat hamentaschen, triangular pastries intended to symbolise Haman’s hat or ears.