Oh today we’ll merry, merry be

March 10th, 2009 by Melina

And have some hamentaschen!

Dear Readers,

On Friday, I showed up at work in a tiara and glittery eyeliner. Last night, children were walking around my neighborhood in what appeared to be Halloween costumes. My rabbis were dressed as superheroes and appeared to be more than slightly sauced.


Because it’s Purim!

Now, before I go on, I have to warn you. As you read this, those of you who don’t know from Purim might think 1. “No Way!” and/or 2. “Is this chick for real?”

But –

1. “Way.” and 2. I’m am not making this up. I assure you, I am not that creative!

I lack the energy to explain the religious significance of Purim to you. Basically, it’s the holiday where the Book of Esther (“The Megillah” – and yes, it’s “the whole megillah“) is read.

Here’s what a megillah looks like:

There’s a fast and a feast.

And to put this in romance writer terms, we celebrate the hero and heroine but very much dislike the villain, whose name is Haman. That is why, when we hear his name read during the story, we drown it out by yelling, booing, stomping our feet, and, best of all, using groggers.

These are groggers:

The megillah is read twice. Jewish holidays start at sundown, so we hear the megillah at night and in the morning. And yes, people dress up like it’s Halloween.

Best of all, the first megillah reading is usually done as a “Purim Shpiel” where there are skits, comedy routines, and songs between the verses. It’s sort of like Saturday Night Live celebrates Queen Esther. Very little is off limits.

Don’t believe me? Check this out:

YouTube Preview Image

I’m not sure about this, but I’m thinking that Purim is the only holiday in the world where people are supposed to get so drunk they can no longer separate reality from illusion, or more specifically, so drunk they can’t distinguish between the phrases, “Cursed be Haman” and “Blessed be Mordecai.” If there’s another holiday that can top that, be sure to let me know.

Then there’s Hamantaschen, a very yummy triangular pastry filled with fruit (apricot, prune, raspberry, or poppy seed). Hamantaschen is the Yiddish word and means Hamam’s pockets. But I remember learning that they represented Haman’s hat. Hmm. In Hebrew, they’re called Oznei Haman, which means Haman’s ears. (BTW it’s 1 Hamantasch, 2 Hamantaschen, 1 Ozen Haman, 2 Oznei Haman). Why the discrepancy in the meanings? Who knows? But it’s something else for Jews to discuss and argue about, which is always fun.

Last but not least, we have Mishloach Manot – baskets filled with gifts of food. Sending Mishloach Manot is a mitzvah (good deed). (There are actually four mitzvot for Purim. If you’re curious, click here.) Here’s the one I received from my students. Don’t even bother asking me how I schlepped this thing home on the Subway. You’re better off not knowing, trust me.

Well, I’m off to merry merry be and have some hamantaschen. But I’ll leave you with this one last treat.

See you all later.

Chag Purim Sameach! (Happy Purim!)


Melina, who swears she did not partake of the purim punch this year, even if it sounds like she did.

Posted in Holiday Fun

5 Responses

  1. Ilana

    Mishloach Manot – we got one today. My eldest and I decided to save some hamentashen for the rest of the family.

    I find I usually miss half of the reading beneath the noise. When half the congregation is children, getting them to stop with the groggers is nearly an impossible task.

    One of these years, I’m going to dress up… it always seems to be the kids. There’s gotta be a way to use my old bridesmaid’s dress here. Or maybe those graduation robes…

    Oh, and one Purim in NYC, I saw a man in a pink leotard with a full tutu and ballet slippers running down the street on his way to the reading :)

  2. admin

    Oh yes. Purim. The only time it’s “legal” for Jews to cross dress. ;-)

    How nice of you to save some hamantaschen for the other half of the family.

    Hearing every word of the megillah is technically very important. That’s why my shul has stop signs they hold up when it’s time to stop making noise.

  3. Marilyn Brant

    This was really interesting and LOL funny, Melina! (The only holiday were people are supposed to get so drunk they can’t separate reality from fiction?!! Love that!) Thanks for taking the time to explain some of the Purim traditions and include pictures (and I’m all over those tasty-looking pastries :-).

  4. admin

    Thanks for reading, Marilyn!

    I’ll be doing a post about Passover too. Passover isn’t funny like Purim though. Oh well. ;-)

  5. Pam

    I’m sorry I missed Purim, but I love the concept! The more I understand about the Judiasm, the more I find myself thinking somebody got it right.

    Fabulous post–thanks for sharing part of yourself!

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