March 06, 2017, 1:01 PM
Purim performance at the Jewish Theatre in Warszawa, Poland. Photo by Henryk Kotowski via Wikicommons
Purim (which starts the evening of March 11th this year) is one of the most festive Jewish holidays. It celebrates the biblical story of Esther, who became queen of Persia despite the prevailing hatred of Jews at the time, because her husband, the king, did not realize she was a Jew. When the king decided to exterminate all the Jews in the kingdom, Esther risked her own life to reveal her heritage and convince him otherwise. The holiday celebrates her bravery and that the human values of love and decency can save lives even during dark political times.
The holiday is traditionally celebrated with pageants, food, and costumes. The Book of Esther is read aloud, with the audience making enthusiastic noise to cover the sound of the antagonist’s name being spoken. Children (and some adults, too) dress in festive costumes for the day. Jews perform charitable acts for their communities, especially donating food. One of the most recognizable symbols of Purim are Hamantaschen, triangular cookies filled with sweet jam.