Purim falls on the fourteenth of Adar in the Jewish calendar which in North America, is
usually late January or February. This year, Purim takes place on Tuesday, March 21st.
Purim begins with the reading of the Megillah which is the story of Queen Esther. She was Persian King Ahasuerus's wife, in the 5th Century B.C.E. Haman, the prime minister was plotting to kill the Persian Jews. Esther used her influence with the king to save the Jews. Haman was hanged for his evil plot. It is a custom to wear costumes to a Purim festival. Children like to dress up as Queen Esther, King Ahasuerus, Esther's uncle Mordechai, or the evil Haman with his three-cornered hat. When the story is read, children use noisemakers called 'groggers' to drown out the sound of the evil Haman's name.
We recite a special prayer, the 'AI HaNissim' which is the liturgy in the Silent prayer for evening, morning, and afternoon, as well as during the Grace After Meals. In the morning service there is a special reading from the Torah Scroll in the Temple.
We had a more detailed article on the history of Purim in Issue #38 of JDCC News. Back issues are still available by using the order form.