When is Purim celebrated?

a calendar with a crown on top of it
  • Purim 2017 begins on March 11th at sunset and concludes at nightfall on the 12th.
  • Purim is a chag [holiday] which occurs on the 14th of the month of Adar. This date marks the day after the Jews succeeded in their fight against their foes.
  • However, if one lives in a walled city, one would celebrate Purim on the 15th of Adar. The reason for this is that the Jews of Shushan (the royal capital) were still fighting on the 14th. Thus the 15th is called "Shushan Purim". Since the holy city of Jerusalem falls under this description, the chag is on the 15th, unless it falls on Shabbat. Since some of the mitzvot could not be carried out on Shabbat, another day to the chag would then be added to compensate.
  • Regarding leap-years: The Jewish calendar is lunar-based. This occasionally requires adding an extra month so that things do not get terribly out of whack pretty fast! - every two to three years in fact, for a total of seven leap years in each nineteen year interval. Guess which month is used ;-) ? You got it- Adar! But then which Adar will Purim fall on- alef or bet? The answer is Adar Bet, although a Purim Katan ["Little Purim"] is marked in Adar Alef as a slightly more festive day than usual. The reason that Purim is celebrated in Adar Bet is to keep it one month before Pesach [Passover]. If you're lucky it’s a bit less chilly then too!
    Incidentally, Adar Alef is also known as Adar Rishon [First Adar]. Adar Bet is therefore Adar Sheni [Second Adar].
  • Ta-anit Esther - Fast of Esther - is a customary fast that occurs from dawn until dusk of erev Purim (Purim eve). It is to commemorate the (longer) three-day fast of Esther and the Jewish community.
  • Special Purims: Styled on the original example of this chag, other littler Purims have sprung up through history, generally local additions started in various communities to commemorate the anniversary of another last-minute deliverance from disaster. Sometimes individual families created their own small personal Purims based on the same basic notion.
  • Al Hanissim -"for the miracles"- is a prayer added to the Birkat Hamazon (grace after the meal). For more on this, and proper observance, see Chabad's website, here and here.

"What's to eat?"

hamentashen Ozney Haman, a.k.a. hamentashen, perfect triangle of deliciousness
  • Ozney Haman, a.k.a. hamentashen: three cornered dough folded in towards the center, and filled inside with something nice. It differs by area. In the USA one might typically see poppy-seed (aka "mun"), prune, cherry, blueberry and apricot, for example. Occasionally cheese too. In Israel the top sellers are pereg [poppy-seed], shokolad [chocolate] and tmarim [dates]. One also sees fillings like egozim [nuts] and shezif [plum/prune], and even halva versions! (Halva is a confection made from sesame seed butter). Ozney Haman means Haman's ears, by the way. Some also attribute the shape to his supposedly wearing a three-cornered hat (see our easy origami project and accompanying song). There is nothing to stop you from creating whatever filling strikes your fancy- like ***PUMPKIN*** (delish!!!), apple-cranberry, pecan, marmelade…. Your imagination (and what's handy) is the only limit. Be sure to check out our delicious recipe!!!
  • Some people also customarily eat salted almonds, legumes, chick peas, etc. to model how Esther apparently kept Kashrut as queen while keeping her Jewish identity a secret.
  • "Seuda" (meal) - There is a customary festive meal at home at the end of the chag.
    (Of course that means you'd have to leave room for this despite all the noshing [Yiddish for snacking/eating] going on during all the merrymaking everywhere plus mishloach manot / edible-gift-exchanging before this point).

Merry-making on Purim

  • This is the time you are allowed to and in fact encouraged to eat, drink and be merry. That includes masquerading. Some go with the traditional characters of the chag, but really anyone or anything is fine.
  • At the reading of the megillah, one is encouraged to make as much noise as possible whenever hearing Haman's name. This is where the ra-ashan [e.g. gragger] comes in, but any noisemaker will do . One custom that sprang up is to write Haman on the soles of one's shoes in chalk. You then stomp your feet at the appropriate times, to 'wipe out his name'. Since Haman's name comes up 54 times in the course of the reading, ample opportunity for complete erasure would not be a problem ;-) . Another interesting take on this was writing the name Haman on two large smooth stones to bang together.
a girl dressed as a Persian queen You can never have too many
Queen Esthers.
noisemakers Stay alert to hearing "Haman" with that noisemaker - you'll get
*54* opportunities to be a noisy nut during the megillah reading!
an illustration of a parade Here in Israel during Purim?
Don't miss the Adloyada!
  • One is permitted to drink alcohol during this. (Please do so only healthily and responsibly of course!) The background to this was Talmudic sages saying that one should drink - "ad lo yada" - until one could not tell ("know") the difference between "cursed is Haman" and "blessed is Mordechai".
  • Adloyada has also become the name of the Purim parade that occurs in cities and other communities throughout Israel. Costumes, floats, bands, carnivals, street fairs- it’s a real pull-out-all-the-stops kind of event. Adloyada parading actually started in 1912 in Tel Aviv, by the way.

See also...