Purim is one of the most joyous and fun holidays on the Jewish calendar. It commemorates a time when the Jewish people living in Persia were saved from extermination.
Jews celebrate Purim by reliving the Purim story through reading of the Megillah scroll, dressing up in Purim costumes, and eating foods related to the Purim story, hamentaschen or ozney haman (in Hebrew).
Purim is a holiday where Jews are told to "eat, drink, and be merry." It is celebrated every spring from sundown to sunset the next day (as all Jewish holidays are) on the 14th of Adar in the Hebrew calendar. This date usually falls in March on the Gregorian calendar.
This year Purim falls on the * Jewish Year 5770: sunset February 27, 2010 - nightfall February 28, 2010
The Megillah scroll:
The book of Esther is unusual in that it is the only book of the Bible that does not contain the name of God. In fact, it includes virtually no reference to God. Mordecai makes a vague reference to the fact that the Jews will be saved by someone else, if not by Esther, but that is the closest the book comes to mentioning God. Thus, one important message that can be gained from the story is that God often works in ways that are not apparent, in ways that appear to be chance, coincidence or ordinary good luck.
Purim is celebrated on the 14th day of Adar, which is usually in March. The 13th of Adar is the day that Haman chose for the extermination of the Jews, and the day that the Jews battled their enemies for their lives. On the day afterwards, the 14th, they celebrated their survival. In leap years, when there are two months of Adar, Purim is celebrated in the second month of Adar, so it is always one month before Passover. The word "Purim" means "lots" and refers to the lottery that Haman used to choose the date for the massacre.
The Purim holiday is preceded by a minor fast, the Fast of Esther, which commemorates Esther's three days of fasting in preparation for her meeting with the king.
The primary commandment related to Purim is to hear the reading of the book of Esther. The book of Esther is commonly known as the Megillah, which means scroll. Although there are five books of Jewish scripture that are properly referred to as megillahs (Esther, Ruth, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, and Lamentations), this is the one people usually mean when they speak of The Megillah. It is customary to boo, hiss, stamp feet and rattle gragers (noisemakers) whenever the name of Haman is mentioned in the service. The purpose of this custom is to "blot out the name of Haman."
We are also commanded to eat, drink and be merry. According to the Talmud, a person is required to drink until he cannot tell the difference between "cursed be Haman" and "blessed be Mordecai," though opinions differ as to exactly how drunk that is. A person certainly should not become so drunk that he might violate other commandments or get seriously ill. In addition, recovering alcoholics or others who might suffer serious harm from alcohol are exempt from this obligation.
We are also commanded to send out gifts of food or drink, and to make gifts to charity. The sending of gifts of food and drink is referred to as shalach manot.
It is customary to hold carnival-like celebrations on Purim, to perform plays and parodies, and to hold beauty contests.
Concern for the needy is a year-round responsibility; but on Purim it is a special mitzvah to remember the poor.
Give charity to at least two needy individuals on Purim day.
The mitzvah is best fulfilled by giving directly to the needy. If, however, you cannot find poor people, place at least two coins into a charity box.
On Purim we emphasize the importance of Jewish unity and friendship by sending gifts of food to friends.
On Purim day, send a gift of at least two kinds of ready-to-eat foods to at least one friend. It is preferable that the gifts are delivered via a third party. Children, in addition to sending their own gifts of food to their friends, make enthusiastic messengers.