Beginning Saturday evening through Sunday, February 24, Jewish people everywhere will be letting their curly sideburns down and getting crazy because it's Purim, y'all! And it is the best Jewish holiday of the year. While Purim is a Jewish holiday it is not explicitly religious, which is why I am starting a campaign to convince the entire population of the United States to grab their party yarmulkes and make this holiday a national one.
What the heck is Purim? It's a holiday based on a long convoluted story with seemingly senseless plot points, but I'll give you the gist of it all. Back in the day, 4th century style, the Persians dominated much of the Middle East's inhabitants including the Jews. The king at the time, Ahasuerus, found himself without a queen because he either banished or killed the one he had (the jury's still out on what happened to her), so he had a Miss America style pageant. As luck would have it, he fell for a young Jewish girl named Esther, in the swimwear portion of the contest. Of course Esther had to keep the fact that she was Jewish to herself because you could never be too sure if a Persian king was a Woody Allen lover or hater.
The king's trusty sidekick, an anti-Semite named Haman, abhorred the Jews (natch) and decried that they all be killed. Esther's uncle, Mordechai, convinced her to go talk to the king, which she eventually did after several nights of feeding him food and getting him tanked. Not only did Esther reveal that she was Jewish but also that Haman was a real dick. So he was hanged! But oddly enough, once a proclamation like "kill all Jews" has been put down on paper, there's nothing to be done. Or is there?
The king, rather than saying, "Hey I'm king and I say no killing Jews," granted the Jews the right to defend themselves against all their enemies. And so Steven Spielberg created the movie War Horse and it was so bad that the Jews' enemies perished. The next day, the Jews partied and that is why we celebrate today. Or something along those lines.
While this story may sound like any other typical Bible story that a religious faction might turn into a holiday, Purim is something completely different. Because we are not so much celebrating the savior, (I mean, we are, just indirectly) this random story has given us the opportunity to rock out in the craziest ways Jewish people are capable of.
How does one celebrate Purim? And how! There are four basic tenets to the holiday. The boring part is that you are required to listen to a reading of the Scroll of Esther, twice unfortunately. However, someone must have sensed this was a downer and so they turned it into an interactive reading. Whenever the book talks of Haman, you scream, stamp your feet loudly and kids twirl loud noisemakers; you can even spit if you feel so inclined. It's like a midnight showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
The next thing you are supposed to do is donate or give to charity. Boo, you say? No way, donating to charity is one of the best parts of all holidays. Helping out the needy has always been standard fare for holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Why? In some respects it's to help those less fortunate but moreover it's to make you feel better about the fact that you are going to overeat and drink too much wine. Purim gets it, and it is encouraged that before you self-indulge you relieve yourself of all guilt. We know guilt.
After you donate to charity you are supposed to send food over to a friend. Who doesn't love dropping by a friend's house with a basket of homemade cookies, or better yet, swing by Kroger on the way and just pick something up and pretend you baked it. Traditionally on Purim you eat these cookies called Hamantashen, which are like fruit kolaches but smaller and shaped like a hat.
I will let this guy explain:
The last and best part of Purim is the party. Unlike any other holiday I know, you are required to drink in excess on Purim. The big man upstairs insists that you get sloshed. The source of this practice is a passage from the Talmudic tractate Megillah (7b): Rava said: A person is obligated to drink on Purim until he does not know the difference between "cursed be Haman" and "blessed be Mordechai"
Perhaps sober you are not even sure what the difference between those statements is, then use this example for further clarification. "What is the obligation of the [Purim] feast? That one should eat meat ... and drink wine until he is drunk and falls asleep from drunkenness" (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Megillah, 2:15).
Yes, you must get hammered.
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Adding to your inability to see straight or understand what it going on, dressing up in costume is encouraged on Purim. While you are invited to dress up as the good characters in the story, I bet there are some cheap left over, rando costumes at Arnie's lying around right now, and a good deal is a good deal. Purim costume parties are wild affairs. I have even heard tell of Eyes Wide Shut style Purim bashes with bagels and lox as far as the eye can see; this might be a Purim urban legend.
Jews do not have very many stories throughout history that end with us winning in a battle of anything other than wits. We need this holiday to remind ourselves that we can overcome hatred, Persians and cookie hats. Jewish or not, you can understand the reason for the massive celebration, so why not get in on the fun? Since this year Purim occurs on a Saturday, there is even more opportunity to drink too much and be too merry.
I put my bid in for Purim to go commercial. I want to see hamantashen cookies at HEB and Purim inspired concoctions at Poison Girl. I am looking for Purim-related candy at Walgreens that will ultimately go on sale the day after the holiday. How about some humorous Purim Hallmark cards with drunk rabbis singing "Hava Nagila?" What the hell is Party Boy selling this time of year anyway? Get some Esther costumes and make some money. Purim could turn into the next big douchey-bro drunk holiday and give St. Patrick's Day and Fat Tuesday a run for its Coors Light money. Let's do this (saved and non saved) people!
Until this holiday goes national, you will find me in the Manischewitz aisle at Spec's.