Purim At Home

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During the special festive meal it was customary for children--and many adults--to wear costumes, sing songs, and render humorous dramatic recitations. Nowadays, it is most common for children to dress up, play games, and perform Purim shpiels (humorous dramatic recitations) in religious schools.

Purim is a time when Jews are supposed to be especially generous. On this holiday, it is customary to give matanot l'evyonim (gifts to the needy) and mishloach manot (the sending of gifts of food, such as biscuits, almonds, wine, and grapes to each other). The custom of mishloach manot is also referred to in Yiddish as shalach mones. Many Jews prepare packages of food that they give to neighbors, friends, family, and colleagues on Purim.

The food associated with Purim are specially shaped cookies called Hamantashen. These cookies are three-cornered pastries filled most often with poppy seed, but also prune and other fruit fillings. The Yiddish name of these cookies means "Haman's pockets." In Hebrew, the name oznay Haman means "Haman's ears." The triangular shape may have been influenced by old illustrations of Haman, in which he wore a three-cornered hat. The baking of these Hamantaschen has become a favorite Purim family activity.

Purim, more than any of the other Jewish holidays, is a time of joyous revelry and release. It highlights the perennial problem of maintaining Jewish identity while living in the Diaspora. It focuses on the powerless and disenfranchised, who with prudence and courage, triumph over those who have worldly power and unlimited hatred. It is for this reason that Jews rejoice with feasting and gladness on this festival.

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