Purim (pōˈrĭm) [key] [Heb., = lots], Jewish festival celebrated on the 14th of Adar, the twelfth month in the Jewish calendar (Feb.–March). During leap years it is celebrated in Adar II. According to the book of Esther (Esther 3.7; 9.24,26) it commemorates the deliverance of the Persian Jews from a general massacre; however, the festival may have arisen in the pagan celebration of the advent of spring. Preceded by a day of fasting, Purim is celebrated as a day of joy, marked by merrymaking and feasting. The Book of Esther is read in the synagogue, and it is customary for children to make noise to blot out the name of the evildoer Haman. Other customs related to the festival included the exchange of gifts, especially of food, the giving of alms to the poor, the presentation of Purim plays, and the wearing of costumes, especially by children. In Israel, a Purim carnival is held. Purim is considered a minor festival, and work is permitted.

See A. J. Rosenberg, Megillath Esther (1984); P. Goodman, Purim Anthology (1988).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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