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  • Kate Forest

My Completely Uneducated Explanation of Purim

Purim is Jewish Halloween—sort of. Everyone gets dressed in costumes, the kids eat cookies (many made with prunes so don’t get too excited), and the adults drink until they are blotto (and these are Jews, so we’re talking about 2 shots of schnapps).


Purim takes place every year on the 14th day of Adar, except when there’s a leap month and there’s Adar II. Pro tip: Look for it during March.


Purim celebrates the triumph of Esther to save her people. That’s what they tell us at least. Here’s a summary of the whole megillah (side note: megillah is the book describing the events that form the basis for the holiday and some other stuff like what to do when. So you’re welcome, English language, for a fun word we gave to you.)


There was a Persian king with an unpronounceable name. He commanded his wife Vashti to dance for him and his bros. And she was all, “no way, because you really want me to do a strip tease and you’re a drunken ass, even if you are the king.”


Here's Vashti trying to keep her clothes on


So he did what all misogynistic frat boys do—he banished her. Now he needed a new queen and he had his henchmen gather all the pretty girls. Esther lived with her uncle (or cousin—it seems up for debate) and they were Jews and knew their place in Persia was tenuous (so what else is new?) Mordechai (the uncle/cousin) was all, “go, you never know what could happen,” because he was blessed with the power of literary foreshadowing.


Here's Esther pissed at her uncle/cousin for twisting her arm into being queen. What she really wanted was to be an immigrant rights attorney.


Of course, the king picks Esther and she’s all mum on the Jewish thing. Meanwhile there’s an evil minister, Haman, who is always licking the king’s boots and trying to get in good. Through a series of events, Haman decides the Jews are ruining his chances to get in good with the king. While in a drunken state (which to be honest seems pretty typical for this king), the king agrees with Haman’s plan to kill all the Jews. The plan is that everyone can attack the Jews and the Jews are forbidden to defend themselves. Which is pretty low.


Esther gets the king drunk another time and tells him she’s a Jew and he shouldn’t let this happen. But there’s a king rule that he can’t undo his old rules, so he at least lets the Jews defend themselves and he hangs Haman.


Here's Esther accusing Haman and the drunk king in the background kind of paying attention. Notice Haman wincing at being pointed at. Being pointed at was a big deal back then.


The Jews are attacked and they defend themselves and not everyone dies. This is considered a happy ending in the Hebrew Bible.


We celebrate this great victory with costumes, drunken extremely noisy parties, and Hamantaschen. Hamantaschen are the cookies that are delicious if you get the ones filled with cherry or apricot. Avoid the prune ones. The poppyseed ones are good too, at least better than the prune ones. Chocolate filling has found its way into modern versions of the cookie, they’re tasty but offend my sense of tradition, but again, better than the ones filled with prunes. More debate abounds if Hamantaschen means Haman’s ears, pockets, or hat. Doesn’t matter as long as you don’t eat the prune ones.


The good kind.








The bad kind

© 2015 by KATE FOREST