Purim is another fun Jewish holiday, where we're encouraged to be silly, dress in costume, step out of our usual boundaries with wine (for adults) and dramatic play (everyone), and eat hamentashen cookies (shaped like Haman's, the "bad guy's" hat). It celebrates the saving of the Jewish community of Persia by the bravery of Queen Esther, who was secretly Jewish. There's a midrash (rabbinic story) that one dresses in mask and costume to hide, just as Esther hid her identity. The four mitzvot (commandments) associated with the holiday are to listen to the story of Esther that is read from a scroll called a megillah; to give special tzedekah (charity) to the poor, to give gift baskets of food to family and friends, and to have a festive meal. As the megillah is read, the custom is to make as much noise as possible (using a noisemaker called a grogger, and lots of hisses and boos) each time Haman's name is mentioned, to blot out his name.
There's a very good account of the history and development of traditions of the holiday begining here:
The megillah contains some harsh realities of life of the times and Jewish communities who had been forced from their home in Israel, and so when we tell the story for young children we need to omit some details, while still imparting the drama of the events. I thought you might enjoy reading the puppet play I wrote a few years back for my class. Purim in a nutshell.
The Story of Purim
(retold by Amy G--not to be used without permission)
A long long long time ago
In the land of Persia, In the city of Shushan
There ruled a powerful, though not always wise,
King named Ahashverus
King: Oh, it’s good to be King! I want to have a party! Queen Vashti, come dance for me and my guests!
Queen Vashti: No! I’m having a very bad hair day!
Queen V: No!
Queen V: No!
King: Sorry, honey! I don’t want you to be my Queen any more if you don’t do what I want! Get out of here!
(Queen V gets tossed offstage)
King: Now, I need a new Queen!
So, a search was made for a new Queen.
King: (checking out girls in audience) Humn, you.re cute! Oh, too tall! Hello, darling! Woohoo!
A girl named Esther, the neice of a wise man named Mordechai was chosen. (put crown on Esther)
But shhh-she was Jewish! Mordechai warned Esther to not tell the King she was Jewish, since the Persians didn’t treat the Jewish people very nicely. So—Shhh!
Esther: Shhh! Don’t tell!
One day, Uncle Mordechai overheard some men talking. Do you know what they wanted to do? They wanted to kill the king!
Mordechai: Look out, king Ahashverus! You’d better get rid of those guys!”
And so, the King was saved.
King: Ah! It’s good to be King!
One day, the King called for his trusted advisor Haman.
King: Haman, I think you’re great. What would you like?
Haman: I think I’m great, too! I want everybody to bow down to me!
King: Allright! Everyone must bow down to Haman!
Everyone, but Mordechain, bowed down to Haman.
Mordechai: I will not bow down, Haman! I bow down to nobody but God!
Well, Haman was very angry about this. He decided to get rid of all the Jews in Shushan! He drew a pur, a lot, to decide what day to do it. (pull out big number 14) The 14th day of Adar was the chosen date.
Haman: Ha! I’ll show them!
Mordechai knew what had to be done.
Mordechai to Esther: Esther, only you can save your people! You must go to the King, and tell him that you are Jewish, and ask him to save us!
Esther: But I’m so afraid!
Mordechai: You must be brave, Esther! You can do it!
So, Esther went before the King.
Esther: King, my dear, I need to speak to you.
King: Is it important? I’d rather go to a party.
Esther: Well, I’d like to invite you to a party, and yes, it’s very very important. Please?
King: Oh, OK.
So Esther planned a party, and invited the King.
(throw streamers on stage)
Esther: Remember the man Mordechai, who saved your life long ago!
King: Well, yes! I’d forgotten about him. We should honor him
Esther: He’s Jewish!
Esther: And so am I, your dear wife! And Haman has decided to get rid of all the Jewish people in Shushan on the 14th day of Adar!
King: Not while I’m King! Out with Haman! Ah, it’s good to be King!
Haman: Oh, no!
King: Oh, yes!
Haman: No! No! No!
(King chases Haman out, Haman gets tossed offstage).
Mordechai: Thanks to Esther, the Jewish people were saved!
Esther: Who knew I could be so brave!
And so, on the 14th day of Adar, the Jewish people celebrate Purim, and tell again the story of brave Queen Esther and her uncle Mordechai.