From festive costumes to hamantaschen: Ways to celebrate Purim

Photo of Homemade prune hamantaschen
Yoninah/Creative Commons
(Yoninah, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.)

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For all of you looking for things to celebrate, you’re in luck this Thursday night and Friday — it’s the Jewish holiday of Purim! Purim commemorates the story of Esther, a Jewish woman in Persia in the fourth century who used her good graces with the king to save the Jewish people from murder at the hands of a cruel government official, Haman. Though that’s a major oversimplification of the story, the way Jews across the world celebrate Purim is super fun. Read on for some fun ideas for how you can celebrate.

Make hamantaschen 

Hamantaschen are traditional cookies made on Purim. They’re basically a thin sugar cookie filled with jam or chocolate and shaped like a triangle. The shape is supposed to resemble Haman, which is the villain’s hat from the Purim story. Hamantaschen recipes are pretty easy to find, and though the shaping is a little labor intensive, making them is a super fun activity to work on with friends or family. And, you can get super creative with combining fillings or even decorating the outsides of the cookies with sprinkles. 

Dress up or wear a costume

Traditionally, dressing up for Purim has meant wearing masks, face painting and generally dressing up as characters from the story of Purim. But in many Jewish communities nowadays, it’s common to dress up in whatever you want — as long as it’s festive. Think similar style as Halloween, but less scary. This is a great time to break out that Halloween costume that you never got to wear or to coordinate matching outfits with your housemates.

Story retelling or Purim movies

Another important part of Purim is telling the story. I mean, why commemorate something if you can’t actually remember what happened? If your housemates are familiar with the story, consider acting it out or even doing a retelling over Zoom. If you’re really only celebrating for the cookies and costumes, try watching a Purim movie. There are a bunch of options, albeit with a varying level of quality.

Yell at the villain in your favorite show

Another Purim tradition is to make noise and drown out Haman’s name whenever he is mentioned. This happens when a congregation is reading the megillah, the book where the story of Purim is written. Usually, the experience of reading the story of Purim is pretty fun and hectic, what with the yelling and noisemakers called graggers. If you don’t have access to a Zoom call of a megillah reading, you could recreate the craziness of Purim by watching a favorite show or movie or yelling each time your least favorite character speaks. It’s definitely a modern twist on the Purim tradition, but it’s a great way to get into the Purim spirit.

Make a gragger

A gragger is a special type of noisemaker that typically has a handle and something that spins around. Realistically, any kind of noisemaker will work, so feel free to get crafty. You could staple some dried beans inside a paper plate and shake it around, or you could just grab some pots and pans — whatever helps you get in the Purim spirit and allows you to drown out the name of the villain in your life.

Make mishloach manot

Mishloach manot are gift baskets given to friends and family on Purim. Typically, mishloach manot have food in them, but you can put whatever you want. If you’re not able to see your friends around Purim because of COVID-19, making and sending out mishloach manot can be a great way to reconnect with friends from afar. They’re also super fun to make, and you can use them to get rid of some of the millions of hamantaschen you made. 

Even though Purim looks a little different this year, we at the Clog hope you have some inspiration for how to make your celebration fun. Make it your own, and don’t worry too much about what that actually looks like!

Contact Elysa Dombro at [email protected].