What is Purim?
On the Jewish calendar, the holiday of Purim falls yearly on the 14th day of the month Adar, which usually corresponds to some time in March.
Purim is a very festive and joyful holiday that celebrates the story of the Book of Esther in which the Jewish people were saved from persecution.
The story of Purim is read from a special scroll called a Megilla. In the story, a wicked man named Haman creates an evil plan to have the Jewish people in Persia killed. Haman was an advisor to Persia's king, Achashverosh, and he is able to easily have his terrible plan approved by convincing Achashverosh that the Jewish people were enemies, even though in truth they were not. Luckily, Haman's plan is foiled when the king's wife, Esther, is encouraged by her uncle Mordechai to bravely step up and reveal that she herself is Jewish! When Achashverosh then realizes the true wrong and evil of Haman's plan, he orders that Haman be sent to the gallows which Haman himself had built as part of his hateful plan.
Because it is such a great celebration that Haman was overthrown in time, Purim is a very happy time.
The Megilla is usually read in the synagogue and is often accompanied by a costume parade and a festival of games and prizes! During the reading of the Megilla, it's traditional to use noise-makers known as "graggers" to drown out and boo the name of Haman whenever it is read! It's also traditional to make and eat triangle shaped cookies called Hamentaschen, which are meant to look like the triangle-shaped hat worn by the evil Haman!
More Purim Fun!
Aside from the costume parade and the festival of games on Purim, another important Purim practice is Misloach Manot, or the giving of gifts to charity. Since there is supposed to be a feast and celebration on this holiday, Misloach Manot is meant to ensure that no one will be left without food for feasting! Aside from giving to charity, it is also traditional to give gifts of Misloach Manot to your friends, family, and neighbors. Lots of people bake their own Hamentaschen cookies to put in their baskets yum!