A story of resilience, and a time for joy.
Purim is rooted in an inspiring story of survival and holding onto a strong sense of self in the face of insurmountable odds, making this one of the most significant holidays for millions of Jewish people around the world. Purim is celebrated every year in the late winter/early spring on the 14th of the Hebrew month of Adar. In 2022, it will fall from sundown on March 16th-17th. As March is also Women’s History Month, Purim holds all the more significance due to its focus on an unforgettable woman from long ago.
The Significance of Purim
The Biblical story goes that in ancient Persia, a woman named Esther hid her Jewish identity due to the persecution her people faced. But when the King was in search of a new bride, he was entranced by Esther, ultimately choosing her—a commoner—to be his queen. With her unexpected ascension to power, Esther and her uncle Mordechai had to contend with the King’s evil advisor, Haman, who plotted to kill the Jewish people. Bravely, Esther intervened, finally revealing her true identity to the King and saving her people from a terrible fate. In honour of Esther, Purim is a time to commemorate the Jewish people’s long history of resilience and ultimate ownership of their identity—and the celebration for this is joyful and truly one-of-a-kind.
To learn more about this holiday and the story behind Purim, check out the fun educational video below:
The Story of Purim, by Mayim Bialik
With its unique mix of Halloween and Mardi Gras-like spirit, Purim is a time for communities to dress up, drink, be generous, and just revel in the moment. You don’t have to look far to find that there are plenty of deep traditions running throughout Purim. Although the day itself is marked by a feast, the day before Purim can be dedicated to fasting, mirroring how Esther is said to have spiritually prepared herself to make her fateful appeal to the King. Children will often participate in two group readings of the Meghilla (book) of Esther, which calls for ‘scaring’ off Haman by screaming, spinning graggers, and making holiday-sanctioned heckling noises every time his name is uttered. As a further nod to the holiday’s origin, many classic costumes are meant to resemble characters from the Purim story. Even the act of dressing up in disguise (masks are a big hit during celebrations) holds additional meaning—after all, Esther had to hide her true identity and strength to survive, and God’s helping hand was mysteriously hidden throughout the story, but believed to be there all the same.
There are also observances around generosity, with many donating to charity or giving two kinds of food to at least one person. A very popular food to gift is hamantaschen, a delicious triangular filled-pocket cookie. Hamantaschen translates to “Haman’s ears/pockets” in Hebrew (thwarting a villain by eating them? no wonder kids love this traditional dessert); and the seeds found in many hamantaschen recipes are also small reminders of Esther’s dedication to her faith, as she chose to eat seeds in lieu of non-kosher foods in her new home.
Purim in Our Community
What ties so many of Purim’s traditions together is the strength found in togetherness—it is the collective effort of young voices that wards off the villain, and the generosity of many that fuels so much of the festivities. Speaking to our community showed that food also has a way of bringing people together during Purim.
We love Simone's fresh perspectives on holidays, and Purim is no exception. She’s always seen Purim as "more of an excuse to have people over for something light-hearted (the next chance is Passover, which is a HUGE emotional, biblical guilt-factory of a calendar event)".
Even though Simone doesn’t observe all the holiday traditions, food sticks out (sometimes in hilarious ways) as something her family and friends have bonded over. "The whole costume angle doesn't really make sense to my family - it was always about the hamentsachen and Esther." Simone recalls sharing Purim with friends and “realizing that I could help a friend remember what holiday was which with food-based nicknames.” For instance:
“Purim = triangle cookie party
(If you're curious), the others are:
Chanukah = fried food fiesta
Rosh Hashanah = applefest
Yom Kippur= don't dare complain how hungry you are”
In honour of the ‘triangle cookie,’ we are featuring a recipe from Michelle (@the.yummy.yenta)—it’s the holiday-favourite hamantaschen, but with a special spin. Like so many others, Michelle associates this Purim treat with sweet memories of family.
“I always looked forward to these cookies when my mother-in-law made them. She has a recipe for the most amazing dough! It was passed down to her by her mother and she translated the recipe from Romanian into English for me. When I first got married, she spent an afternoon showing me how to make this fancy dough.”
Raspberry Rose Chai Hamantaschen
*Michelle recommends that you check out her recipe for the best hamantaschen base, which is normally filled with jam or poppy seeds.
1 cup oil
1 cup sugar
1 pkg vanilla sugar
Splash whiskey (optional)
1/2 lemon, zest and juice
3 1/2 cups flour + 2-3 more cups for rolling
1/2 cup raspberry jam, warmed
3 tsp rose chai tea, cooled
1/4 cup white candy melts
*1 tbsp of crushed edible rose petals (optional)
For the dough:
1. In a large bowl, mix together all of the ingredients. The dough will be sticky. Place in the fridge for a few hours.
2. On a smooth, heavily floured surface, take a large chunk of the dough and sprinkle with a generous amount of flour. Combine into dough until you get the right consistency which will allow you to roll it out and not stick to the surface. (Unfortunately, this step requires you to use your judgement as there is no set recipe).
3. Roll out over the floured surface. Using the top of a cup, cut out circles with the dough.
4. Fill each circle with a tsp of the filling and fold up sides, pinch at each meeting point to create a triangle shape. Place on baking tray. Brush with egg wash (optional)
5. Bake at 350-degrees for about 10 min until edges are brown. Enjoy!
For the filling:
1. Make a cup of rose chai tea, let cool, set aside.
2. In a small bowl, mix together the warm jam and 3 tsp of the rose chai tea.
3. Make hamantaschen as directed above.
4. Once cookies are cooled, melt white candy melts in the microwave for 1 minute. Drizzle over the hamantaschen.
5. Sprinkle crushed edible rose petals over the wet candy melts. Set aside until candy melts harden.
Whatever your plans for Purim this year, we hope that you embrace the spirit of joy behind this symbolic, fun-filled holiday, and spend it in community with the ones you love.
We encourage you to check out Root & Seed’s Conversation Tool, where we offer conversation starters to share with your family over the holidays.
What Purim traditions, heirlooms, or memories do you associate with this time of year? Comment below!