Purim was celebrated this year on February 26-27, 2021. Purim is a biblical holiday celebrating Esther’s bravery in defense of the Jewish people. The word “purim” comes from the singular word “pur” found in Esther 3:7, which means “lots.” The celebration is named Purim after the lottery where Haman cast lots to determine the day and month on which the Jewish people would all be killed.
The Story of Esther
In the book of Esther, Haman wants to get rid of the entire Jewish race because Mordecai would not bow down to him. He makes a plan to kill the entire Jewish race residing in Persia. Haman builds the gallows in which he desires to kill Mordecai. Esther’s uncle (and adopted father) Mordecai tells Esther, who has become queen of Persia (Esther 4:14), He encourages Esther to fight for the lives of her people. He states that, “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
Esther fasts and prays about how to approach the king with her request for her peoples’ lives, and has all the other Jewish people pray and fast as well for three days. She boldly approaches King Xerxes and asks to have a banquet with Haman present. The king agrees and at this first banquet she asks for a second banquet with Haman which the king approves. At the second banquet, Esther makes her request: “If I have found favor with you, Your Majesty, and if it pleases you, grant me my life–this is my petition. And spare my people–this is my request” (Esther 7:3).
In response, King Xerxes tells Esther that the Jewish people may defend themselves. Esther, therefore, saved the Jewish people in Persia from being annihilated. Ironically, Haman is killed on the very gallows he built to kill Mordecai.
How People Celebrate Purim
Today, the Jewish people celebrate “Purim” in honor of this event. On the Jewish calendar it is on the 14th day of Adar. The children dress up in costumes, people give gifts, and the children make a joyful sound, with noise makers called graggers. They eat a triangular shaped pastry called Hamantaschen. Hamantaschen means “ears of Haman”.
Another tradition that many Jewish adults observe is getting very drunk. The goal is to be so drunk they cannot tell the difference between Arur Haman (“Cursed is Haman”) and Baruch Mordechai (“blessed is Mordecai”). The way to wish someone a Happy Purim is to say “Chag Purim Sameach!” Purim celebrates the three days that Esther fasted before going to see King Xerxes.
Traditionally, when the story of Esther is read at Purim, whenever Haman’s name is mentioned the people all yell “boo.” This is also when children use their graggers, they shout, and stomp their feet.
Purim is one of the most festive Jewish holidays and a wonderful time to reflect on Esther’s bravery and how God worked through her courage. in honor of this holiday, I would encourage you to read through Esther’s story again and ask God how He wants to use you now in your current environment to glorify and make Him known.