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Purim: carnival, costumes and cookies



Chag Purim Sameach (say "hahg poor-eem sam-ay-ach")

It's time for the Jewish holiday of Purim, considered one of the most fun Jewish holidays. The holiday may be celebrated a little differently this year with social distancing and everyone wearing face masks, but let's find out how it's traditionally celebrated.

What does Purim celebrate?

Queen Esther painting

Queen Esther of Persia.

The holiday celebrates how an evil plot was foiled by brave Queen Esther of Persia.

The story is found in the megillah (say ‘meh-gill-ah’) — the scroll that tells the story of a young Jewish woman chosen to be Queen of Persia.

In the story, brave Queen Esther stops an evil plan by the king's evil advisor Haman. She discovers his plot to get rid of all the Jewish people of the kingdom. When she tells her husband, King Achashverosh, that Haman wanted to get rid of her and her people, the king instead punishes Haman. Her courage saved her people.

How is Purim celebrated?

little children dressed up as a lion and a policeman

Little children all dressed up for Purim. (Photo by Avital Pinnick licensed CC BY-NC-ND)

People celebrating Purim tell Queen Esther's story, often in a fun way. Sometimes it's a musical or silly play, which is called a Purim Schpiel (say ‘poor-eem shh-peel’).

They go to synagogue wearing costumes and masks, sometimes as characters from the story, whether or not they are in the play. 

This year, due to Covid, synagogues will be limiting the amount of worshippers they let inside. Instead, people can tune into the livestreams of the Book of Esther and the torah readings from the safety of their homes.

People listening to the story shout and shake rattles or spin noisemakers called graggors (say ‘grag-gors’) every time the evil Haman is named aloud.

After the reading, usually a party begins. But this year, there will be no parties, parades or public gatherings. 

Are there special Purim treats?


Hamantashen is supposed to be the shape of Haman's ears, although some say it's the shape of his hat. (grongar via Visual Hunt/CC BY)

Yes! Eating treats is part of a lot of holidays around the world, and for Purim, the treat everyone wants to eat is hamantashen (say ‘hoh-min-tash-in’) or Oznei Haman (oz-nay Hahm-ahn).

These delicious cookies are filled with fruit jams, poppy seeds or chocolate, and are always shaped in triangles.

Giving charity to the poor is also a big part of the celebrations, and for Purim, it is also traditional to give gifts of food to friends and family. Yum!