The story behind the Jewish holiday of Purim is the best kind: the one where a woman is the main catalyst for change. It’s exciting stuff. So, exactly when is Purim 2018, you ask? We’ve got you covered.
But first, the story: It’s set in 4th century BC Persia and features a brave heroine, Queen Esther, who saves the Jewish people from the king’s adviser-turned-Prime-Minister Haman. Put simply, Purim marks the anniversary of the Jew’s victory over their enemies in Persia.
Tell me more! How did Queen Esther save the Jewish people?
Before we get to talking about when is Purim 2018, let’s give you some background. Esther became Queen of Persia once King Ahasuerus needed a new wife. He’d ordered his previous wife, Vashti, to be executed because she didn’t show up to the party he was hosting (he really sounds like a great guy).
King Ahasuerus held a beauty contest of sorts to choose his replacement-Vashti, and a Jewish leader named Mordechai forced his cousin Esther to participate. According to Chabad.org, she didn’t do anything to “beautify” herself (because who needs to get dolled up for a man, am I right?). As soon as the king laid eyes on Esther, he chose her as Queen, and unbeknownst to him, she was hiding the fact that she was Jewish.
Haman, the story’s antagonist, was anti-Semitic. As decreed by the king, all subjects were required to bow down to Haman (literally), but Mordechai, described as a “proud Jew,” refused.
Haman didn’t like that very much. Outraged, he swore to take revenge against the Jews (all of them) and conducted a lottery to determine when the genocide would occur. This lottery concluded that the mass killing would happen on the 13th day of the Hebrew month of Adar. (Purim translates to “lots” or “lottery.”)
Mordechai refused to bow down to Haman a second time, and when Haman asked permission to hang him, King Ahasuerus wouldn’t allow it. Instead, he wanted to honor “Mordechai The Jew” because the man had stopped two people from following through with an assassination.
Mordechai begged Queen Esther to reveal her Judaism to the king so that he would “spare her people” from Haman’s wrath. Long story short, she did, Haman was hanged and the Jews were saved. On the 13th of Adar that year — the day Haman had originally planned for their genocide — Jews across the Persian Empire came together and killed the enemy (including Haman’s ten sons).
This story is told in the Book of Esther (the Megillah), which you can read more about here.
How is Purim celebrated?
Purim, like Hanukkah, isn’t considered a huge Jewish holiday, but modern culture has elevated it to a time of celebration — as the New York Daily News notes, Purim is known for its “party atmosphere.”
In most parts of the world, there are parades and carnivals where people dress up in costume (the holiday is sometimes referred to as the Jewish Halloween or Mardi Gras).
Purim is also a time of giving. It’s encouraged to distribute money or meals to those in need, and food baskets are given out to the poor as well as other people in the Jewish community (similar to an Easter basket).
A staple food of this holiday is Hamantaschen — triangular pastries with a sweet filling and, traditionally, poppy seeds — which are said to look like Haman’s three-cornered hat or his ears.
The Book of Esther is read in full during synagogue services at the beginning and end of Purim. (Fun fact: whenever Haman’s name is read aloud, everyone is supposed to stomp their feet, yell and use noisemakers.)
Check out this How-To Guide for more ways to celebrate Purim.
When is Purim 2018?
So, when is Purim 2018, this time of celebration and yelling during services? Purim is celebrated on the 14th of Adar, which usually falls around March or April every year. This year it starts on the evening of Wednesday, Feb. 28 and lasts until the evening of Thursday, March 1.