In Venice and Rio, they have Carnival. In the United States and the UK, they have Halloween.
We Jews have Purim, when it’s time for fancy dress parties (no, Possum, no Pixie – not Fancy Feast. Fancy dress). But before that, we go to the synagogue and read the Megillah (the Book of Esther). The one day in the year when it is not only permitted, but actually meritorious, to get drunk – so drunk that one cannot distinguish between Mordechai the Jew (the Good Guy) and the evil Haman ( a sort of Biblical Ahmedinajad – and that latter-day Haman would be well advised to remember what happened to his predecessor in long-ago Persia).
You may ask – how did this tradition (of getting drunk) get started? I’ll tell you (in the words of Tevye the Milkman) – I don’t know. But it’s a tradition ;-).
In most of Israel’s towns and villages, as indeed throughout the rest of the Jewish world, Purim is celebrated today. However, in those cities which were surrounded by a wall in the time of Esther and Mordechai, the festival is celebrated a day later. Well, in point of fact, this means that in Jerusalem, we get to celebrate it for two days in succession ;-).
Other Purim customs are the sending of mishloach manot (gift parcels, usually of food – especially the triangular cakes stuffed with poppy-seeds or dates and known variously as Haman’s Ears – Oznei Haman in Hebrew, Haman’s Pockets or Hamantaschen in Yiddish) and the giving of tzedakah (charity).
There’s a Jewish joke that claims all the Jewish festivals can be encapsulated in one short sentence: They tried to exterminate us. We won. Let’s go and eat ;-). A joke – but with an underlying truth.
In case you were wondering, I still don’t know what I’m going to dress up as! Ideas, anyone?
I shall leave you all with two video-clips from YouTube, with a Purim flavour: