It is on the 14th of Adar. Purim is a joyful spring holiday that features a festive meal, gift-giving, costumes, noisemakers in the synagogue, and required drunkenness. Purim is thus sometimes nicknamed "the Jewish Mardi Gras" or "the Jewish Halloween." Purim is a carnival where everyone young and old dresses up and each city organizes a parade.
Purim celebrates the story, told in the Book of Esther, of the king's advisor Haman's attempt to murder the Jews of the Persian empire. In the story, the date for the destruction of the Jews was determined by casting lots. The word Pur means "lot" in Hebrew; its plural is Purim.
So Purim is the Feast of Lots.
I had to check what Casting Lots meant. I believe I have never heard that expression before or if I did, I did not pay attention. So here what I found: According to Blurtit it is a practice mentioned in the Old Testament for 70 times and seven more in the New Testament. Though it is mentioned several times there is no information about what consisted of the actual lots. It is anything like a die, pebble, ball or paper used to determine a question. Here there in no human intervention and the decision is left to God or chance. Thus it is believed to be some thing similar to flipping a coin in the modern times. Here "lots" refers to the lottery that Haman used to choose the date for the massacre.
However, there are two incidents that saved the Jews.
First, Mordechai had saved the king’s life from his two servants who plotted to kill him and therefore the King rewarded him by bestowing a royal title on him.
Secondly, one of the king's wives, Esther urged the King to hang Haman at a banquet for his treachery. The days of Purim are therefore celebrated to remember the salvation God provided the Jews.
As with many holidays, non-religious customs for celebrating Purim have developed over the years. One very popular custom is the baking or simply eating of hamantaschen ("Haman's ears" or "Haman's pockets"), three-cornered pastries with a fruit filling or chocolate. Another important custom of this feast is distribution of gifts and presents and alms the poor. Those Mishloach Manot (literally “sending of portions”) are baskets filled with cakes, cookies, nuts, fruits and other treats given to neighbors, friends, and especially the needy. Hamantashen is often the centerpiece of these food baskets. Students at school exchange those Mishloach Manot that contain mostly candies, chocolate and those Haman's ears. It is fun to buy all those colorful candies but I am really happy it happens only once a year!
As mentionned at the beginning it is tradition to make as much noise as possible whenever the name of Haman is heard. For that a "ra'ashan", a noisemaker spun by hand, often made of wood or plastic is a must!
Happy Purim festival everybody! May you always be safe!
Thank you Dan!