It’s Purim next Sunday and in Israel it is Purim week. Purim is actually only one day, but as any parent of young children in Israel knows, the party starts now. You could also ask any parent of a young child in Israel how they are feeling about Purim by Wednesday and they might possibly admit that they are a bit tired of it. The reason? Costumes.
Purim is a celebration of the deliverance of the Jewish people from a decree by Haman, Prime Minister to King Ahaseurus to destroy them. The story is from the Book Of Esther, where it tells of the plot by Haman against the Jews which was thwarted by Mordechai and his adopted daughter, Esther. The full story should be told by someone far more knowledgeable than I so I will jump to the end of the story where the King discovers Mordechai has saved his life by foiling a plot to kill him, Haman’s true colours are revealed and is duly executed and Esther is the girl of the King’s dreams. In gratitude to Mordechai the King allows him to write a new decree which allows the Jewish people to preemptively destroy those who were going to attack them, thereby saving the Jews. Please don’t complain about my simplistic story telling – it is in a nutshell and I am no expert. (Follow the red highlighted links above to websites who are better informed than I)
The idea behind the costume is that the story contains many elements of disguise: The belief that God was disguised in the forces that brought about the safety of the Jews and the non-Jews disguised themselves as Jews when the new decree was made in order to save themselves. As with most religious festivals the real reasons behind the customs are somewhat forgotten over time (Christmas anyone?) but the customs remain, so at Purim people dress up. Or, if you are between the age of 2 and 10 you dress up for a week, in a different costume, every day, for a week, causing your parents aggravation and stress, for a week …for a week.
I had never heard of Purim when I first arrived in Israel and my first experience of it was seeing children in fancy dress on their way to school. To see an 8-year-old dressed as Santa Claus in Israel in February was quite a surprise. Before the children we celebrated Purim by going out in the evening dressed up in lame costumes. I went to a party one year as Mary Quant. I thought it was a great costume – but no-one knew who I was supposed to be. They possibly presumed I was a hospital patient, pale pink lipstick is not for everyone’s complexion.
Purim is also celebrated with alcohol, in fact over indulgence is encouraged, apparently it is the only Jewish festival where you should drink -until you forget who you are (there’s that disguise thing again). Not one to be short of an excuse for alcohol I embraced this part of the celebration. Now that I have to source multiple costumes for multiple children I will curtail my alcohol intake.
So costumes for today, number 1 son is costume-less and the twins have gone to nursery in their pyjamas. Not as easy as you may think, wake them up, wash, breakfast and out the door? No, unfortunately due to rubbish nappies, yes Huggies I am talking to you, that meant full strip, full wash, full change into another pair of pjs. Of course being the bad mama that I am I didn’t have the favourite pjs freshly laundered so no.2 son has gone in his brother’s dirty Thomas the Tank engine top (fresh from the bottom of the dirty washing basket) and Princess no.1 daughter is sporting leggings and a too small pj top with fairies on it. Of course they both took their sleep companions, teddy and dolly so God help us all come 7.30pm if bad mama has left them at nursery by mistake.
I am reliably informed that each day at nursery has a different theme but as my Hebrew reading is abysmal my little ones could well turn up as King and Queen on the wrong day. Oh well, they won’t remember when they are 15, or will they? The culmination of this dressing up frenzy is Friday when they will all wear their official Purim costumes, that’s 2 Spidermen and a princess for us. We only have 1 Spiderman mask so I am gearing myself up for Friday’s meltdown already. It will also finally make sense for no.2 son to run up to random people at bus stops and minding their own business walking down the street, shouting, ‘I’m Spiderman’, it’s been a bit difficult explaining to confused (and scared) people for the last month.