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PURIM HISTORY, ORIGINS, TRADITIONS AND CUSTOMS

Overview

Purim is a joyous holiday observed by Jews all over the world.  The holiday celebrates the triumph of one woman over an evil king that meant to exterminate all of the Jewish people in Persia.

 

The Story of Purim (i.e., the History and Origin of Purim)

The story of Purim begins with a pious Jew named Mordacai raising his young cousin. [Note: The date is unknown, but probably happened sometime between 350-500 BC.] Her name was Esther and she grew into one of the most beautiful women in all of Persia.  Because of her beauty, she was brought before King Ahasuerus.  At first he placed her into his harem, but he fell madly in love and chose her to be his queen. [Note: He killed the previous queen (Vashti) because she refused to dance naked in front of the court.]  However, under the advice of Mordacai, Esther never told the king that she was Jewish.

The plot of the story begins to unfold when the villain, Hamen enters the picture.  Haman was a despicable person, but was also one of the King’s advisors.  After a fight between Haman and Mordacai, Haman vowed to destroy all of the Jewish people in the kingdom. 

Mordacai and Esther decided that she must convince the King to stop Haman.  The King did not want to have any visitors, and an unannounced visitor was surely put to death.  After three day of fasting (the Fast of Esther) and prayer, she went in to see the unannounced. Without penalty, she told him of her Jewish heritage and of Haman’s plans to kill her people.  Because of the King’s love for Esther, he stopped Haman’s plans and hung him on the following day.  The Jewish people were saved.

 

Purim Customs, Celebrations and Traditions

 

Megillah: Book of Esther

The Megillah (translated as “scrolls”), also called the Book of Esther, is recited every year on Purim in temple.  It recalls the entire story of Esther in much greater detail than I have above.  While the story is being told, if the reader says the name Haman, the congregants (children and adults) would make a lot of noise with a noisemaker called a grogger.

It is interesting to note that this section is the only story in the bible that does not mention the name of G-d. The significance might be to show that G-d’s will is always there, although you might not always be able to see it.

Hamantashen/Hamantaschen

Hamantashen are triangular shaped pastries, usually stuffed with fruit in the middle. Translated, it means Haman’s Pockets, but actually refers to the triangular shaped hat that Haman wore.

Fast of Esther

The day before Esther is a fast day to remember the three days of fasting that Esther conducted before going to see the king.

Celebration

Although the day before Purim is a fast day, the day itself is a day of food and drink. The end of the Purim holiday is usually celebrated with a large meal called a seudah where there are lot of food and drink, with lots of friends and family present.

Groggers/Gragers

Grogger translates to noisemaker in Yiddish.  It is usually a metal or plastic device that you hold with your hand and when you turn the handle, it makes a noise. Groggers are used during the reading of the Magillah to drown out the name of Haman.  People also stamp feet, clap hands and hiss.

Date of Purim

Purim is celebrated each year in the Jewish calendar on the 14th of Adar.  The Jewish calendar is based on the lunar calendar and does not usually match up with that of the Gregorian calendar most people in the U.S. are used to, but it usually falls out sometime in March.  This day commemorates the day that the Jews were saved from Haman.  It is interesting to note that some cities in Israel (that were walled during the time of this event) celebrate Purim for two days because the story states that a walled city did not escape Haman’s plans until the next day. [The second day is called Shushan Purim.] Another interesting fact is that in leap years, the moth of Adar comes up twice.  If this occurs, the second 14th of Adar is known as Purim Katan (Little Purim).

Upcoming Dates:

  • 2005: Sunset of March 24th - Jewish Year 5765

  • 2006: Sunset of March 13th - Jewish Year 5766

  • 2007: Sunset of March 3rd: Jewish Year 5767

  • 2008” Sunset of March 20th: Jewish Year 5768

Wearing of Costumes on Purim

Children (and some adults) will dress up in costume in celebration of this holiday.  There may even be a parade of the children through the street or at least through the temple. This tradition probably began around the 15th century in Italy, copied from local celebratory customs.

Purim Carnivals

It has been a tradition to hold Purim Carnivals where there are lots of games and usually a play with lots of fanfare with children (and adults) dressing up in costume.

Lottery

Purim is translated as lots or lottery.  The holiday was named that because Haman used a lottery to choose the date that he was going to destroy the Jews.

Shalach Manos (Giving of Food)

It is a mitzvah to give or send food and drinks to other.  The giving of these gifts is called Shalach Manos, and many people will go around visiting friends and family with baskets of food. It is also customary to give to the poor. In modern times, people will send gift baskets to others.

GIFT IDEAS FOR PURIM

This is not a traditional gift giving holiday.  If you would like to buy a gift, make some home-made Hammentashen and give them out to your friends and family.

Purim Gift Ideas:

  • Hammentashen

  • Gift Basket of Candy, Sweets & Alcohol

  • Costumes for the Kids

  • Religious Articles

PURIM LINKS AND ONLINE RESOURCES ABOUT PURIM

Purim Facts, Customs, Traditions and History

Purim Multimedia (downloads, wallpapers,

 ecards, ect.)

Related Purim Information

Purim Activities

Purim Recipes

SUGGESTED GIFTS FROM OUR AFFILIATES

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Purim

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Purim Anthology icon

Rose Sale Banner (125x125) - static

Fruit and Flowers Basket

Tower of Fruit

* More Gift Ideas *

The food suggestions above are from Omaha Steaks.  They sell both Kosher and Non-Kosher foods. They state "At Omaha Steaks we offer the finest kosher products available. Our kosher products are manufactured and koshered under the strict supervision of a Rabbi and are in full compliance with Kosher Dietary Laws." However, before purchasing any item, that it states that it is kosher.

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Last modified: March 20, 2012

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