Purim is a Jewish celebration of ancestral courage and faith beginning this year on Monday evening and ending on Tuesday evening.
The origin of the holiday is found in the Megillah, or scroll, of Esther. The scriptural account tells the tale of a Jewish girl living in Persia, Esther, who becomes the wife of King Ahasuerus. Haman, the advisor to the king, hated the Jews and convinced the King to order an extermination of the Jews, not knowing that his new Queen was Jewish. Esther was encouraged by her cousin — and leader of the Jews — Mordechai, to appeal to the King to save her people.
According to the Chabad website, “Esther asked the King and Haman to join her for a feast. At a subsequent feast, Esther revealed to the king her Jewish identity. Haman was hanged, Mordechai was appointed prime minister in his stead, and a new decree was issued, granting the Jews the right to defend themselves against their enemies.”
Purim is a Hebrew word that translates to “lots,” which is representative of the lots that were cast by Haman when he chose the day on which he would exterminate the Jews.
The holiday is celebrated on the 14th day of the Jewish month Adar — a period covering February and March — because it was the day that the Jewish people rested after the conflict.
According to the Jewish Virtual Library, “The Purim holiday is preceded by a minor fast, the Fast of Esther, which commemorates Esther’s three days of fasting in preparation for her meeting with the king.”
In addition to the fast, it is customary to read the Megillah on the evening of Purim. This reading can involve costumes and audience participation — as the story is told, listeners will use noisemakers and boo whenever Haman’s name is mentioned.
In Esther 9:22 it states, “As the days wherein the Jews rested from their enemies, and the month which was turned unto them from sorrow to joy, and from mourning into a good day: that they should make them days of feasting and joy, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor.”
As suggested in the scripture, it’s customary to gift two portions of food to at least one person and give gifts of money to at least two people in need.
Finally, Purim is largely known for the feast and celebration that ensues on the holiday. Triangular pastries with various fillings called hamantaschen, also known as oznei Haman, is typically eaten at these celebrations. Many people dress up in elaborate costumes and drink copious amounts of wine — the goal is to drink so much that one “becomes incapable of knowing whether he is cursing Haman or blessing Mordecai,” according to the Babylonian teacher Rava.
While many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints don’t observe Purim, the story of Esther’s bravery and faith is an example to many Christians.