General Question

Jude's avatar

What exactly is Purim?

Asked by Jude (32134points) March 13th, 2012

I subscribe to a page on FB called “Humans of New York” and the photographer has been posting photos and a video of Purim. I understand that it is a Jewish holiday, right?

Also, why do the kids dress up in costumes?

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20 Answers

annewilliams5's avatar

It is from the Book of Esther, which remembers the Biblical reference to the plot to exterminate the Jews. www.jewfaq.org/holiday9.htm will give you an incredible amount of information about it. I’m not Jewish, so the information I have is only that which I have read. This is a good reference point. It is also quite informative when relating parallels to the Nuremberg trials.

buckyboy28's avatar

I never understood why we dressed up. We used to make masks in Hebrew school and would wear them when they read us the G-rated version of the story that @annewilliams5 linked to. We would shake graggers (noise-makers) whenever Haman’s name was read. And then we’d eat hamantashen. (They’re awesome. Find a recipe and make some if you can.)

Aethelflaed's avatar

Purim is the holiday celebrating the events of the Book of Esther. You can watch a quick recap here (it leaves some nuances out, like that Queen Vashti was banished/killed for disobeying the order to appear, possibly naked, wearing her crown in front of the king’s guests. While Vashti is traditionally seen as evil, many feminists have reclaimed her as a feminist icon for not letting the king objectify her). But, it’s your basic ‘they tried to kill us, they failed, let’s eat’ kinda deal, with Esther saving the Jews from being totally killed. The costumes are being the characters in the story – like, Esther and Vashti.

flutherother's avatar

“Fever is no sickness and Purim is no holiday.”

JLeslie's avatar

I had never even heard of the holiday until I was in my 20’s. That is only significant because I am Jewish. Same with Sukkot. I still don’t really know what Purim is.

Rarebear's avatar

It’s one of the “They tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat!” holidays.

JLeslie's avatar

@Rarebear It seems like that is most of the holidays.

Rarebear's avatar

Yes, I was just repeating an old joke.

Purim is a celebration of the Book of Esther. We celebrated it as kids and always had carnivals and dressed in costumes. I’m not sure why we did costumes. Shuls will do a megilla reading which is actually pretty fun. They hand out noisemakers, and every time Hamen (the bad guy) is mentioned, everybody boos and rattles their noisemakers. Hamentashens are the traditional food, which are three pointed fruit filled pastries. They’re three pointed because Hamen was supposed to have worn a three pointed hat.

And there are silly traditional songs;
La covah sheli
Shalosh pinot
Shalosh pinot
la kovah sheli
Lool hayu lo shalosh pinot
Lo hayah zeh ha covah sheli.

My hat has three corners
Three corners has my hat
If my hat didn’t have three corners
It wouldn’t be my hat.

I’ve always liked Purim because it’s festive. Sukkot is also festive—it’s a celebration of the harvest. You build a shelter that you’re supposed to be able to see the sky through it, and then sleep in it (I like building the sukkot, but I don’t sleep in it).

JLeslie's avatar

@Rarebear Not to worry, I took it as humorous.

GracieT's avatar

@JLeslie, I’m Christian, but it seems like food is almost always involved, anytime we get together. In my church, even for services- we’re very informal, and we let people eat/drink during services/CTs (central teachings).

JLeslie's avatar

@GracieT Well, with the Jewish holidays it is specific foods, or after a fast, or something very specific like that. On Passover we eat certain foods that are symbolic. On Chanukah foods made in oil like potato pancakes and donuts. I don’t think the Christians celebrate being enslaved and then being freed too much in their holidays? That is literally almost all of our holidays. Or, at least the more popular ones like Passover and Chanukah. Yom Kippur, the highest of our holy days I guess isn’t, but you are required to fast, and then the next day you feast.

Plus, there is sort of a joke that the Italians and the Jews care about the food, and the Irish care about the drink. I can tell you I miss the food in cities that have more Jews and Italians, and people more tied to their national heritage, that is if their heritage had yummy food. Not that all the food is Jewish or Italian, just there is a big emphasis on food. Where I live in the bible belt there are pretty much no decent bakeries, if there is one, then it is one, but I don’t know about it, and I mean both bread and pastry. There is one bagel place, one, that is so so. average restaurants the green beans must be boiled for 30 minutes and then bacon is added, all sorts of fat and fried, and mush. Don’t get me wrong, there are some good restaurants here, but very very few. Of course, we have most of the chains, and some I like very much.

JLeslie's avatar

@Rarebear Now that goes against my stereotype of Jews and Irish above. Lol.

Rarebear's avatar

@JLeslie I used to have a job as a photographer’s assistant. I did stuff like hold lights, set up equipment, etc. We went to an Orthodox Jewish wedding and I don’t think I’ve ever seen people drink so much. He had to give a teaching out of the Talmud, and they kept interrupting him to take whiskey shots. Fortunately, he was able to make it through the wedding.

flutherother's avatar

@JLeslie Guinness almost is a food and the best pastries I have ever seen were in a baker’s shop window in Galway on the west coast of Ireland. I was hungry too having cycled there.

JLeslie's avatar

@Rarebear That’s hysterical!

@flutherother When, I say the Irish, we are stereotyping Irish-American. But, I don’t doubt the Irish have an appreciation for food. Although, Irish food traditiinally does not stand out as being great cuisine. I would guess food is better now since the great potator famine, but Ireland, England, Scotland, are not known for food like Italy and Greece. Here where I live there is an absence of connection among the people to their heritage. I find it rather odd, because being from the northeast we are all very aware of being Chinese or Russian or Italian or Polish or German or Greek etc., and it is very common to talk about the food and have international restaurants all over the place. Other parts of the country are like that, Chicago, Detroit, not just the northeast for sure. The suth seems to take pride in being southern, not in where their family came from. It’s a huge generalization, but just the overall feeling I get. Maybe because so many have been here for so many generations.

GracieT's avatar

But @Rarebear, during Mass supposedly the wine is what is turned to blood. So we’re not really given all that much, but there you go.

JLeslie's avatar

@GracieT Have you been to a big Jewish, Italian, or Greek wedding? Or, some other big event or holiday? Or, even just hung out with a bunch of them for a while?

Rarebear's avatar

@JLeslie I went to a Greek Orthodox wedding once. The Ouzo flowed freely.

JLeslie's avatar

@Rarebear Ouzo, dancing, food, yeah I’ve been to a couple. They give money like the Jews also. I don’t think Baptists and other protestant religions give money.

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