Jewish people across the world gathered Wednesday to mark the beginning of Purim, which celebrates the heroism of Esther and Mordecai who freed the Jews in 4th century BC Persian Empire from being destroyed by an ominous plan created by the king’s adviser, Haman.
The 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar is said to be celebrated as the start of Purim every year and the celebrations go on until the next evening. Thus, Thursday evening will mark the end of the Jewish holiday this year. Purim was first celebrated in the first century and then eventually gained popularity around the world.
During the Jewish holiday, Jews read the story of Esther and offer retellings of the story to their children. The story follows Esther, chosen to be the wife and Queen of King Ahasuerus (believed to be Xerxes I) of Persia, who uses her influence to stop the bloody plan made by Haman to kill all the Jews.
During the holiday people enjoy festive meals and dress up in various costumes and dance. Purim is said to be a time to give. Following the tradition of the holiday, families exchange gifts and treats in baskets while children dress up in colorful costumes.
Purim celebrations have a carnival-like atmosphere, with people either wearing their best Sabbath clothing or fancy dresses — with Mordecai, King Xerxes, Haman, Queen Esther, and Vashti among the most popular costumes.
A major part of the tradition also includes reading the Book of Esther, known as “the Scroll,” or Megillah in Hebrew. It is generally read first on the eve of Purim and again on the next day. People retell the story of Esther to their next generation, which is considered to be an important part of the celebrations.
During the synagogue services, followers and churchgoers reportedly shake noisemakers known as “groggers” while mentioning the name of the villain, Haman, and believe that their act would “blot out” his name from history.
Bible verses are also read during Purim. Some of the important ones are listed below:
“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And you know whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14
“I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” Psalm 16:8
“If you don’t know what you’re living for, you haven’t lived yet.” Rabbi Noah Weinberg
“In them the king granted the Jews who were in each and every city the right to assemble and to defend their lives, to destroy, to kill and to annihilate the entire army of any people or province which might attack them, including children and women, and to plunder their spoil.” Esther 8:11