This month, Jewish people around the world are celebrating Purim, 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. Purim 2016 begins at sunset on Wednesday, March 23, and ends on Thursday evening, March 24.
In the United States, we listen to the Megilla (the book of Esther) on Purim, to relive the events that are told about Esther, Mordecai, and Haman. It is customary to twirl graggers (Purim noisemakers) and stamp one's feet when the evil Haman’s name is mentioned. Many Jewish people give to the needy around this time of the year. Food baskets or food gifts called Mishloach Manot are also given away. Some Jewish schools have Purim carnivals filled with activities, costumes, food and games. Special prayers are also included in evening, morning and afternoon prayers.
As you can see, and as many of you know first-hand, Purim in the U.S. is a lot of fun! So, how is this joyous Jewish holiday celebrated in other parts of the world. To find out, see the details below, from the Jewish Agency for Israel:
Israel: In the Tel Aviv suburb city of Holon, several hundred spectators in colorful costumes watch the annual parade, featuring cartoon and animal floats. Israeli policemen cordon off the street for a parade packed with adults and children in colorful costumes, who come to watch the biggest Purim parade in Israel.
Germany: In one town in Germany, on the eve of Purim, two candles are lit in the synagogue. One is called "Haman" and the other "Zeresh" (Haman's wife). The candles are allowed to burn completely, and are not extinguished. Haman (doll)-shaped cakes are also prepared, and the children eat them with great glee.
Italy: In one town in Italy, Jewish children divide into two camps and throw nuts. Adults ride through the streets of the town on horseback, with cypress branches in their hands. They also place an effigy of Haman in a high place, and encircle it to the sound of trumpets.
France: Some Jewish children take smooth stones, write or engrave Haman's name on them, and strike them together during the Megillah reading whenever Haman's name is mentioned.
Tunisia: In a town in Tunisia, Jewish schoolchildren participate in burning an effigy of Haman. The younger children make small Hamans out of paper, and the older children make a large Haman out of rags, old clothes, and straw. A large bonfire is prepared and children throw the "Hamans" they had made into the fire.
Libya: The Jewish youngsters throw an effigy of Haman into the fire and jump over it, competing to see who could jump highest.
Afghanistan: The Jewish children draw pictures of Haman on planks or cardboard. During the Megillah reading, the planks are thrown to the ground and trampled on, making a lot of noise. Wooden sandals are held in the hands and clapped together, also making a loud noise. The synagogue carpets are taken up and the congregants trample underneath them, in case Haman is hiding there.
No matter where you are, we at the J wish you and your family a fun and happy Purim holiday!