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Happy Purim! 5 things you should know about the ‘Jewish Mardis Gras’

Flickr, StateofIsrael

Starting today, Jews around the world take part in the festival of Purim to celebrate the survival of the Jewish people under ancient Persian rule. Purim is one of the most entertaining Jewish holidays and has a carnival-like atmosphere, with people dressing up in costumes and letting loose.

This year, Purim begins on the evening of March 23rd and ends on the evening of March 24th. Here are a few things to know about Purim.

1) Purim is based on a biblical story and celebrates a woman named Esther

The backstory of Purim is quite the epic tale. It takes place 2,500 years ago in Persia. Haman, an advisor to the Persian King Ahasuerus (thought to be Xerxes I), tried to wipe out the Israelites on the 14th day of Adar.

But Esther, the king’s wife and queen, along with her cousin Mordechai confronted the king to stop Haman’s evil plan. The story ends with Haman’s death and the Jewish people being saved.

The term Purim refers to the lottery system that Haman used to decide what day the massacre would take place.

2) The story is re-enacted through readings and plays

Plays re-enacting the story are popular during Purim.

During retellings of the Book of Esther at synagogue services, people are encouraged to make a racket and shake noisemakers called groggers at the mention of Haman’s name. The purpose of the noisy custom is to symbolically blot out Haman’s name from history.

#Purim #Groggers #ChagSameach

A video posted by lisa m. rose (@lisa.m.rose) on

3) It’s an opportunity for people of all ages to dress up in costumes and let loose

In Israel specifically, parades, street parties, and even zombie walks take place providing celebrators with plenty of opportunities for fun.

A traditional feast known as Purim se'udah is held, where people gather to eat a large meal and drink plenty of wine. There's a saying that adults are obliged to drink until they don't know the difference between "cursed be Haman" and "blessed be Mordechai." 

4) People eat delicious pastries called hamantaschen

A photo posted by molly yeh (@mollyyeh) on

A hamantash (pl.hamantaschen) is the iconic food of Purim. Hamantaschen, which literally translate to "Haman’s pockets," are sweet triangular pastries. While the most traditional filling is poppy seed, they can be made with a variety of fillings including prunes, nuts, apricots, dates, halva, fruit preserves, chocolate, and even funfetti!

There are even hamantaschen eating contests!

5) It’s basically a second Halloween

Except kids hand out treats instead of receiving them. During the festival, friends give each other foods and celebrants are encouraged to give food and money to the poor as well.

Popular costumes include characters from the Book of Esther.

And it's not just kids that get to dress up. All sorts of people get in on the fun. 

I'm a pirate ⚔😎 #happypurim #פונצובייבי

A photo posted by Punchu Baby 😍 (@punch_noah) on

Whether you celebrate Purim every year or are new to the holiday, happy Purim to all!