Purim is filled with fun traditions–from dressing in costume, to raising a racket when Haman’s name is read from the megillah, to the sumptuous meal served on Purim day. But mishloach manot, giving gifts of food to friends, is arguably the most festive of the bunch. What other time of year is one obligated to share edible treats with friends just to add joy and gladness to their day?
The tradition of giving mishloach manot stems from a verse in the Book of Esther that reads, “Therefore the Jews of the villages, that dwelt in unwalled towns, made the 14th day of the month of Adar a day of gladness and feasting, a holiday, and of sending portions to one another” (9:19). Over time, this idea evolved into the contemporary practice of delivering baskets filled with hamantaschen and other goodies to friends’ homes. Of course, when it comes to Jewish tradition, even something as fun as giving gifts to friends has laws attached to it.
One must send at least two items of food or drink (ideally things that can be consumed without further preparation) to at least one person in order to fulfill the mitzvah.
Creative Mishloach Manot Ideas
While stuffing a few candy bars, chips, and a soda can into a paper bag technically fulfills the mitzvah of mishloach manot, it misses a larger opportunity to give friends something really special. The ideas below offer suggestions for personalized mishloach manot packages that are sure to delight their recipients. You do not need to include everything listed below in each package–feel free to add or subtract items to meet your tastes, style, and budget.
Hamantaschen are notoriously missing from these baskets, but would of course make a welcome addition to any of them. Another addition that would enhance the baskets, in keeping with a different Purim mitzvah of matanot l’evyonim (gifts to the needy), is a card letting the recipient know a donation was made in their honor to Mazon, or another hunger relief organization.
Bag of organic pancake mix
Mini bottle of real maple syrup
Small bag of homemade granola
Assortment of bagels
Container of cream cheese
1 Kirby cucumber, jar of capers, red onion, or cherry tomatoes
Package idea: Arrange everything in a wicker basket
Assortment of cheeses (e.g. cheddar, Brie, Stilton, goat chevre)
Water crackers or oat biscuits
Homemade fig bread
Fresh grapes or a few small apples
Shelled walnuts, pecans, or marcona almonds
Half bottle of wine
Package idea: Arrange everything in a galvanized pail
Milk & Cookies
Assortment of cookies–chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, peanut butter, etc.
Individual bottle of milk
Package idea: Arrange in a galvanized pail tied with checkered ribbon
Middle Eastern Goodies
Container of hummus
Homemade muhamarra dip
Dried figs and dates
Package idea: Bundle items inside a colorful piece of fabric
Bottle of craft beer
Package of Cracker Jack and/or popcorn
A jar of mixed nuts
Pretzels and mustard
Package idea: Put everything in a bag of your choice, tied with ribbon that matches your friend’s favorite team colors
Pronounced: uh-DAHR, Origin: Hebrew, Jewish month usually coinciding with February-March.
Pronounced: meesh-LOE-akh mah-NOTE, Origin: Hebrew, literally “sending portions to one another.” A phrase taken from the Megillah [Book of Esther] that commands the Jewish community to give small packages of food or gifts to friends on the day of Purim.
Pronounced: MITZ-vuh or meetz-VAH, Origin: Hebrew, commandment, also used to mean good deed.
Pronounced: PUR-im, the Feast of Lots, Origin: Hebrew, a joyous holiday that recounts the saving of the Jews from a threatened massacre during the Persian period.