Thursday, March 24, 2011

Celebrating Purim

Purim, a Jewish Holiday celebrating Esther's liberation of the Jews, was last Saturday and Sunday. I've always wanted to celebrate Purim. I mean really, a woman in the scriptures with her very OWN holiday, what isn't there to celebrate about that! Jews often call Purim the "children's holiday" because many of the activities revolve around fun activities for children. My kids were old enough this year that I thought celebrating Purim would be a fun thing for us to do on our family night (I figured that since we aren't really Jewish that it didn't matter if it wasn't on the real day).

The kids and I started the day out by making "groggers" or noise makers. They are for shaking during the reading of Esther's story. Every time Haman's (the bad guy who tried to kill the Jews) name is mentioned you are suppose to make as much noise as possible. The idea is to drown out Haman's name, and thus his memory, from the story.

I found tons of different suggestions online on how to make groggers but I didn't end up using any of them. In the end we used glass peanut butter and baby food jars filled with pennies. Then I wrapped construction paper on the outside and we painted them. They turned out wonderful! Very, very noisy.

Then we made hamantashen which literally means "Haman hats". They are shortbread cookies filled with jam or figs. This was the best recipe I found. They were delicious but tricky to make. It might take me a few years before I figure out how to pinch them correctly.

My second batch didn't turn out very good, but it still tasted good. Which is the important thing.

Then when my husband got home we had family night and the kids got dressed up in costumes like Esther and Mordecai. I guess that Jewish children often just dress up in any sort of costume, it doesn't have to be Purim related, but I figured my kids might get confused if we strayed too far from our theme. Then I pulled out the felt board and the Esther characters I made a few weeks ago.

From the left: King Ahasuerus, Haman, Mordecai, Vashti, and Esther

We'd already gone through the story a few times on other days and so my little boy knew who all the characters were. As I read an abbreviated version of Esther's story he put each character on the board... making sure to shake his grogger ferociously every time I said Haman's name. My little girl didn't pay much attention to the story but jumped around shaking her grogger like a wild child. I think she mostly liked being allowed to be crazy and noisy and not get in trouble.

Our Purim celebration was pretty simple but we really enjoyed it. I like that it is a fun way to teach my children an important Bible story and to get them familiar with different religious traditions.

There are other Purim traditions that we didn't do this year, like fasting the night before to commemorate Esther's fast, giving food and gifts to the poor, and burning Haman's effigy. I think that next year I would like to incorporate the fast and the gift giving into my personal celebration of Purim, but my husband has already told me that he draws the line at effigy burning. Drat.

Purim follows the Jewish Calender and so is never on the same day every year. Next year it will be start at sundown on March 8th and go till sundown on March 9th. I'll try to give you a heads up... if I remember... so that you can celebrate it too.

I think that this just might be the only holiday specifically celebrating a woman from the scriptures... so it is just too good to pass up!


  1. What an awesome idea! When I have some kidlets of my own I will definitely try this out!

  2. That was fun to read about. I knew absolutely nothing about Purim, or that it existed. Thanks!

  3. One of the best shakers we have made (and it is not breakable) is to use an old baby bottle (or buy one from DI or Goodwill) and fill it with unpopped popcorn, or pennies, or rice. They make a lot of noise and can be decorated with paper, paints and glue. I like the hard plastic ones as they make the best noise. What a wonderful thing to teach your kids!! And a great lesson for me to go over with my own girls.

  4. How neat! What a fun holiday that sounds. Especially for kids with all that noise making and all. My kids will be old enough to participate next year, too, so I might just look into the holiday more and tag along with ya then!

  5. I had no idea that Esther has her own holiday! What a fun family tradition to create. Thanks for sharing.

  6. I am getting my BA in Religious Studies at the University of Minnesota - anyway - I am taking this religion class right now, and I had to read this awful book about Purim and targeted terrorist attacks. I need your blog to revive me. These holidays and sacred trasitions are being lost. You do good work. Thank you.

  7. I took Biblical Hebrew in college and one teacher always celebrated Purim with us. She'd bring in costumes and we'd all bring in food (though, drinking bubbly at 8 am was a little over the top…) and we'd act out this really ridiculous version of Purim. We would end up laughing our heads off by the end. It was amazing.

    Thanks for reminding me how much fun Purim can be! Maybe we'll start celebrating it next year! We already try to celebrate Hanukkah as much as possible, since I have a menorah and candles.

    I think we should all still celebrate Jewish festivals. They are, after all, our heritage, too. Even Jesus celebrated them. And who can't use a little more celebration in life? :)