Purim Guide

Holiday Traditions, History & Celebrations

5 Things to Know About Purim

1. What is Purim?

Purim is a joyous and festive Jewish holiday that has been celebrated by the Jewish people for over 2500 years since the 4th Century BCE. Jews typically observe Purim by celebrating with loved ones over a festive meal, donating to Charity, gift giving and reading the Book of Esther whose story is behind this lively Jewish holiday.

People performing a Purim spiel.

2. When is Purim?

Purim occurs during the month of Adar, month 12 of the Hebrew calendar, or sometime in February or March in accordance with the Gregorian calendar which is used in the United States and most parts of the world. This year, Purim is celebrated on Saturday, March 23 to Sunday, March 24. 

Calendar with March 23 and March 24 circled.

3. What is Purim’s history?

Purim’s history is recounted in the Biblical Book of Esther. Set in Ancient Persia – current day Iran – Purim’s backstory is about Queen Esther’s brave deliverance of the Jewish people from the King’s death order. After King Ahasuerus’ advisor, Haman, was refused respect by Mordecai, a Jew, Haman plotted against the Jews and persuaded the King to issue a decree that called for the execution of all the Jews living under his rule. When word got to Esther that her people were set to be slaughtered, she risked her life by revealing her identity as a Jew to the King and pleaded for him to revoke his order. Haman was hanged because of his conspiring against the Jews and the Jewish people were liberated from imminent death.


4. What is the Megillah?

It is tradition during Purim to read aloud the Megillah, a parchment scroll on which the Book of Esther is transcribed. The Megillah is read aloud in a playful, lively manner by using silly voices. It is also traditional for listeners to make noise or rattle groggers whenever Haman is mentioned in order to drown the sound of his name out.

Purim megillah with pointer

5. How do you celebrate Purim?

There are plenty of ways to celebrate, but one of the most traditional ways Jews observe Purim is by dressing up in costume and having a dinner party with close friends and family. Consider making the Persian dish ash reshteh to bring the setting of Esther’s story to life at your party, and for dessert, bake hamantaschen, a triangular, Jewish pocket pastry conventionally filled with jam, but that can also be filled with chocolate, apricots, or any other filling for a spin on this classic and delectable treat. Bake some extra hamantaschen to add into your mishloach manot, a holiday food gift basket to send to friends and family. No matter how you choose to celebrate, you are sure to absorb the contagious positivity and liveliness of this festive holiday. 

Children in a parade wearing Purim costumes

Megillah image:  Chefallen (CC BY-SA 3.0)