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What is Purim and How is it Celebrated?

While many Jewish holidays have pretty serious religious underpinnings, Purim, coming up on February 25th, is one of the most joyous and fun of the Jewish holidays. It’s a little bit of Mardi Gras, Passover, and Halloween all rolled into one. Traditions of this holiday include giving care packages to those in need and baking delicious Jewish staples. But how did these traditions emerge? What exactly is Purim? 

The Origin of Purim

The story of Purim commemorates the events that took place in the Bible: Book of Esther. The protagonists of the story are Esther and her cousin Mordecai who raised her as if she was his own daughter. Esther was a young and beautiful Jewish woman living in Persia. She was taken to the King of Persia, Ahasuerus, who immediately took a liking to her. So much so, that he made Esther queen. However, the king did not know an important part of Esther’s identity. She hid her Judaism from him per her cousin Mordecai’s advice. 

The antagonist, or villain, of the story is Haman. He’s the smug and self-absorbed advisor to King Ahasuerus. Haman decided he wanted to destroy all Jewish people just because Mordecai wouldn’t bow down to him. He told the king, “There are certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your realm. Their laws are different from those of every other person’s, and they do not observe the king’s laws; therefore, it is not befitting the king to tolerate them.” Esther 3:8. Since he was the king’s trusted advisor, Ahasuerus decided Haman could move forward with whatever plot he had in mind. When Mordecai found out about Haman’s evil plans, he persuaded Esther to speak to the king in order to save the Jewish people. To prepare herself for an unpredictable outcome from the king, Esther fasted for three days before going to speak to him. 

Luckily, the king welcomed Esther with open arms and she decided it was the right time to reveal her true identity. Later, she told him of Haman’s evil plan against her people. Because of Esther’s bravery, the Jewish people were saved.

Celebrating Purim at Lester Senior Living

Purim is preceded by a minor fast, the Fast of Esther, which commemorates Esther’s three days of fasting in preparation for meeting with the king. The primary commandment related to Purim is to hear the reading of the book of Esther, which we read to our residents every year. While listening to this reading, it is custom to boo, hiss, stamp one’s feet and rattle noisemakers whenever Haman’s name is mentioned in the service. After all, he is the bad guy.

But arguably the most fun way to commemorate this holiday is to eat, drink and be happy! If you are looking for a sweet treat to make for Purim, check out our signature recipe for Hamantaschen cookies: https://jchcorp.org/how-to-make-delicious-hamantaschen-cookies-before-purim/. These delicious triangular fruit-filled cookies are supposed to represent Haman’s three-cornered hat. In addition, Jewish people are commanded to share these treats with others or make donations to charity, also known as shalach manos (lit. sending out portions). 

If you’d like to know more about how we are celebrating Purim at Lester Senior Living, or have any other questions regarding our senior care services, please contact us today. We’d love to hear from you.