Purim Sameach everyone! It's that time of year again. One of Israelis' favorite holidays is here once again. The easiest comparison to the Purim holiday is the western celebration of Halloween. And although you will similarly see the streets costumed with people, the origins of the holidays could not be more different.
On Purim, we are celebrating the story of the beautiful Queen Esther (my Hebrew namesake) who saved the Jewish people from destruction at the hands of the King. Long story short, the King chose Queen Esther to be his bride, not knowing that she was Jewish. The King prepares an edict to annihilate the Jewish people and it is then up to Queen Esther to save her fellow people. At a festive banquet, she approaches the King and reveals herself. The story has a happy ending and thus the banquet turns into a celebration for the Jewish people. Very long story short, but that's the reason why you see the costumes on the Purim holiday:
Aside from the costumes and celebratory mood, Purim is also a time to deliver gift baskets (in Hebrew these are called Mishloach Manot) to your friends, family members and coworkers. Filled with sweets, it's always fun to deliver and receive these special baskets which are currently on display everywhere in Israel:
And who doesn't love Hamantaschen, the special cookies we eat during the Purim holiday? These triangular shaped cookies are filled with either jam, poppy seeds, chocolate or halva. They are meant to symbolize the three sided hat that evil Haman (in the story of Esther) wore.
And perhaps the most beloved part of Purim is the commandment that we must drink and be happy. There is possibly nothing more entertaining than being here in Israel and witnessing the Haredim and Orthodox Jews drinking openly on the streets during Purim, dancing on top of cars and turning the streets of Mea Shearim into a party zone. Trust me, these pictures don't do it justice. Unfortunately I cannot take any of my own (and neither really can anyone else) because the Haredim have strict rules against being photographed. But here's a little taste (on a very small scale) of what you might see:
Like I said, the pictures really don't do the reality justice. In reality, the streets are packed enough that you cannot even get through without a struggle. In other parts of town you will be sure to find Purim carnivals and parades as well as music and entertainment as the celebrations continue throughout the day and night. It is a festive day and a happy one. One of the best in Israel:
Purim also happens to coincide with the beginning of Spring and so I think people are doubly happy to celebrate in honor of the sun's return. It's been a long, cold winter and the last few days have been spectacular. Fingers crossed that this beautiful weather continues! For details on Purim events and festivities take a look at the followings posts from Tourist Israel: here and here.
If you were here in Israel, you'd be greeted by the following today: "CHAG SAMEACH!!" or "PURIM SAMEACH!!" So I will wish the same to all of you, wherever you may be!