Purim: A Festival of Gladness

About Purim

Purim is celebrated in Jewish communities around the world each year on the 14th day of Adar. The festival is based upon the story told in the Book of Esther, a tale of humorous and melodrama parody of palace intrigue, in which the brave Queen Esther and her uncle, Mordecai, save their people from the twisted genocidal plot of the wicked vizar of Persia, Haman. The name "Purim" means "lots" and refers to the mechanism by which Haman chosen a date for the annhilation of the Jewish people, a decision made out of rage because Mordecai refused to bow down to him in public. The festival of Purim is celebrated primarily by reading the Book of Esther from a hand-written scroll called the Megillah, and blotting out the sound of Haman's name with noise-makers called groggers. People attend the Megillah reading dressed in costume, most often characters from the story. Purim is not considered a holy day, and carries none of the prohibitions associated with the pilgrimage festivals, and it is certainly not celebrated as a holy day. The order of the day is costumes, gift-giving, and historically, a good amount of drinking. The Talmud instructs that one should consume enough alcohol to render one unable to distinguish between "Bless Mordecai" and "Curse Haman," a tradition that probably derives from two reasons. First, much of the plot of the story revolves around the drinking of alcohol. Second, while the tale told in the Book of Esther is not considered historical, and is certainly irreverent, it rings true because of the Jewish people's long history which has included oppression, expulsions, pogroms, and genocide.

Purim is traditionally celebrated in the way that Mordecai instruction the Jews (Esther 9:19) to commemorate their deliverance by:

Mishloach Manot

Mishloach Manot is the custom of preparing small portions of food and drink to give to friends as gifts. These packages often contain hamantashen, the traditional 3-sided filled pastry eaten on Purim (recipe below), raisins, fruit, wine, and candy. There are many ways to create Shlach Manot packages; here is one easy way: Cut a paper plate in half and put the two halves together. Staple together around the curved edge. Decorate the outside and fill with goodies. You can attach a handle, if you like.


Groggers are noise-makers used during the Megillah reading to drown out the sound of Haman's name, symbolically expressing the desire to rid the world of his evil. Grogger can be made from any container filled with unpopped popcorn or beans. Two plastic cups, face to face, filled with corn or beans, and taped together, works well. Commercially-produced groggers can be purchased at Jewish bookstores and synagogue shops.

Purim Songs

Click here for some very silly songs.


Would you like to make an origami Haman's hat? Ben Finkel created it and if you click here, you'll find directions and diagrams.


Hamantaschen is a triangular-shaped pastry which presumably is reminiscent of Haman's three-cornered hat. It is filled with poppyseed or prune filling, or jam. Here is a recipe for you to try:

Hamantaschen for Purim

  1. Cream sugar and shortening.
  2. Add eggs and orange juice and mix well.
  3. Add dry ingredients and mix well.
  4. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours until dough is well chilled (it's easier to roll out when it's chilled).
  5. Roll out dough on floured board until 1/8" thick. Cut circles with a drinking glass.
  6. Add a teaspoonful of filling to the center of the circle and pinch three corners to form a triangle-shaped pastry, A, B, and C according to the pictures below:
  7. Optional: Paint each hamantash with a wash of beaten egg and water.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees F for approximately 20 minutes, until slightly browned.

Purim Humor

This page was produced through the research and work of: Ben Finkel, David Guralnick, Julie Hollander, Tali Mindek, Scott Nathan, and Rachel Scheinerman.