Traditions are important to every culture. They help tell a story, continue the path, and are also a link to our past. As a mother of three, it is my job to pass along the Jewish traditions that I was brought up with. There is no one else to help me.
First of all, my husband is not Jewish, although he is very supportive in making our household a Jewish one. Therefore, I have no other side of the family to share the responsibilities of holiday making. My older family members that are still alive can no longer do all of the work that is associated with having large gatherings at their home for the Jewish holidays. My younger cousins are not married, and truthfully, they do not care about tradition as much as I do. They love to celebrate the holidays in my home and come when invited, but if I did not host a celebration, it would not matter to them.
Therefore, the onus is all on me to keep the Jewish traditions alive for my three children. It is a responsibility that I take very seriously.
One of my favorite Jewish holidays, with lots of fun traditions for children, is Purim.
The First Purim Tradition
Reading the Megillah
The Book of Esther is not in the Torah, but in a separate scroll called the Megillah. Jews go to synagogue to hear it read, and it is quite a funny service. In my synagogue, it is called a dis-service, because it is so offbeat. Not only so we recite satiric versions of prayers along with real ones, our cantor and rabbis are dressed in themed costumes and close the service with a parody song and dance to one of the popular songs on the charts.
Metal Noisemaker Assortment (50 pc) from Amazon
The service is also very noisy. In order to drown out the name of the wicked Haman, who wished to have all of the Jews of Shushan killed, noisemakers called groggers are sounded each time his name is called. That would never happen at a regular service! My family never misses the Purim service, my husband included!
The Second Purim Tradition
Jews are commanded to rejoice and have fun on Purim. This is easy to do, as both children and adults are expected to dress in costumes for the Purim service. While younger children love to dress up as Esther or Haman, older kids tend to dress up in their Halloween costume. It is such a fun site to see all of the Purim costumes!
Many synagogues have a Purim shpiel, or play, right after the service. In our synagogue, tweens and teens who are in Hebrew High School are permitted to perform in this musical parody. My older daughter was in the shpiel for several years, and it was such a delight to see her and her friends on stage dancing and singing on stage.
A third way for families to rejoice is to attend a Purim carnival. Most synagogues and Jewish Community Centers host one the weekend before or after Purim. Children are encouraged to come in costume to play games, eat, and then trade in their tickets for fun prizes. Older teens help out and the younger kids love to see them there. It helps make the connection for younger kids that being Jewish does not stop at your Bar/Bat Mitzvah and that being Jewish is cool.
Purim Costumes for Kids
Dressing up in costume is something that my children and I look forward to each year. My son has now become too “cool” for this, but his twin sister still loves to get decked out. I enjoy embarrassing my kids when I get into the spirit of the holiday. After all, it is the last parenting power I have!
Here are some fun Purim costume kids will enjoy wearing.
Queen Esther Child Costume from Amazon comes in different sizes.
Mordechai Purim Costume from 123 Stores
Jolly Purim Costume for Kids from Amazon
Sending Mishloach Manot Baskets
Giving out gift baskets of food to friends, family and neighbors is another festive Purim tradition. Many people include homemade hamantaschen in their baskets. This tradition came about to ensure that everyone in the community has something to eat for their own Purim feast.
There are rules for giving mishloach manot baskets. One of them is that it must contain at least two different foods, or one food and one drink. You can check out this article on aish.com for a complete listing of Purim basket rules.
In our home, my children make hamantaschen to give out at school. Their classmates look forward to receiving this special treat each year.
The Fourth Purim Tradition
Giving to those less fortunate than you
The last, and most important, Purim tradition that my family follows is matanot l’evyonim, giving to the poor. As festive as Purim is, we are commanded to remember that not everyone is a fortunate. At our synagogue, instead of using groggers to drown out Haman’s name, we use boxes of pasta. At the end of the service, there are hundred of boxes of pasta the we give out to different organizations in our community. Many people bring extra boxes to help fulfill this mitzvah.
In addition, it is during this month that we collect shoeboxes filled with toiletries for the homeless and give them to a local shelter to help those who are in need. It is a wonderful project that my children, as well as my Girl Scout troop, have participated in.
These Purim traditions are ones that I do every year with my children, and ones that I enjoy very much.