Purim is just around the corner, and Jews everywhere are getting ready for this festival.
For those who are not familiar with the festival, Purim is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the salvation of the Jewish people in the ancient Persian Empire from destruction in the wake of a plot by Haman.
Purim is celebrated annually according to the Hebrew calendar on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar (late winter/early spring). This is the day following the victory of the Jews over their enemies. Purim begins at sundown. In cities that were protected by a surrounding wall at the time of Joshua, Purim is celebrated on the 15th of the month. Everywhere else, Purim is on the 14th, while the 15th is known as Shushan Purim. This year, Purim falls on March 7-8.
According to the Book of Esther, Haman, royal vizier to King Ahasuerus planned to kill the Jews, but his plans were foiled by Mordecai and Queen Esther. The day of deliverance became a day of feasting and rejoicing.
So how does one celebrate Purim? It is customary to relive the events of the Purim by listening to the Megillah (the book of Esther), once of Purim Eve, Wednesday night, and again on Purim day.
While concern for the needy is a year-round Jewish custom, Purim is a special day to give charity to those in need. It is also a day to send gifts of food to friends.
A special festive meal for family and friends is also customary. It is customary to serve food that has symbolic meaning linked to the Purim story. Triangular-shaped food such as kreplach and hamantashen pastries are eaten in memory of Haman's three-cornered hat. Since Esther ate as a vegetarian in order to keep kosher in the King's Palace, many people serve a vegetarian Purim meal. Another custom is to serve an especially long, braided challah in memory of the rope used to hang Haman
Other traditions include the wearing of masks and costumes.