“So, what are the kids going to be for Purim?” the grandparents in Canada ask.
“Every day is Purim,” we answer, in the week leading up to the holiday.
Purim in Israel, after all, is not just a one-day affair. It is one of the most loved times (for kids) of the year.
While many Jewish holidays celebrate deliverance from the hands of enemies, Purim takes it a step further. Many big public costume parties mark Haman’s failed plan to destroy the Jewish people in the ancient Persian Empire.
The city of Tel Aviv hosts an annual Purim Rave Street Party at Kikar Hamedina that attracts thousands of partygoers (this year’s event takes place Friday, March 21, at noon). The city’s bars and clubs kick off the holiday celebrations on March 13 and there’s a party for every style.
Jerusalem’s main event (March 17, Kikar Safra, 11:30 a.m.) is a family-oriented happening with street theater, dance shows and singers.
Some try to compare Purim to the “Jewish Halloween” because of the costumes aspect. But that is a major misnomer. Halloween is officially dedicated to remembering the dead while Purim is all about celebrating salvation and life.
Halloween is also equated with candy and costumes, and though Purim includes these aspects it’s also a religious holiday on which people donate to charity, exchange gifts of food and drink (mishloach manot), listen to the Book of Esther, and party hard.
Israelis aren’t satisfied with one day of celebrations – in the week running up to the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar, schoolchildren wear costumes according to pre-determined themes.
My kids followed a costume schedule that included pajama day, boy-girl day, dress like an adult/baby day, sports day, opposite day and animal day. Read between the lines: Extra work for the parents!
They also return home every day with freshly painted faces, masks, holiday-themed art projects, and all-out excitement for the next day. I love it!
While I was growing up, the heroes of the Purim story were the main choice for dressing up. I was Queen Vashti numerous times – mainly because her name began with a “v” like mine.
Somewhere along the way, Disney characters and superheroes, animals, clowns and other nonreligious styles entered the costume lexicon of Purim. My three kids will at some point during this year’s Purim week have been Belle, Cinderella, The Incredibles, Spiderman, a pirate, a cheetah, an astronaut and a Native Indian – in addition to their school-day costumes.
Purim parades are also a major part of celebrating the holiday in Israel. In many cities, floats, marching bands, dancers and street performers make their way down their main streets for the Adloyada Purim parades – with Holon hosting the national event.
“Adloyada” comes from the decree that on Purim Jews should drink until they cannot tell the difference (ad lo yada) between the holiday’s main characters, the evil Haman and the heroic Mordechai. Of course, as the parades are family events, it’s less about intoxication due to alcohol and more about excitement.
Schools also host Purim parades around the neighborhood – which allows children to change into yet another costume.
For those who prefer to reminisce, the Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive has made public six films depicting the various ways in which Purim has been celebrated, and they’re all worthy. Adloyada 1960 shows colorful scenes of the procession in Tel Aviv, though participants could have smiled a bit more.
There’s also Faces of Freedom (1960) about new immigrants at a Purim carnival Springtime in Palestine (1928) which includes a Bukharian Purim feast and scenes of the 1928 carnival ; Eretz Yisrael: Building Up the Jewish National Home (1934) with scenes of the Adloyada in Tel Aviv ; Edge of the West (1961) – a color film surveying Jewish life in Morocco in the early 1960s, including Purim celebrations ; and Hassidic Music (1994) which depicts various Jewish music traditions.
The tradition of eating hamentaschen (oznei haman) is one you don’t want to miss out on. Bakeries across Israel woo passersby into their shops to buy all sorts of filled triangle-shaped cookies said to represent the hat/ears of Haman. The customary poppy-seed, jam or date fillings have been updated to include chocolate, halva and nut options.