If you don't know the story, read the Book of Esther in the Bible.
Reading the Book of Esther is one way that we celebrate Purim.Traditionally we attend a reading in the synagogue. (From a long scroll, sort of like this long Dry Bones Purim Web page) Obviously the saving of one Jewish community in ancient Persia is not what makes the joyous Purim holiday so significant. And the characters of "Queen Esther" and "Mordechai the Jew" are NOT what makes the holiday tick.The tale of Purim is important because it provides us with a view of the archetypical villian, Haman.
HAMANAnd recognizing the sly Haman who wants to destroy us is important, because there seems to be a Haman in every generation.And so on Purim we celebrate our escape from a long line of "Hamans" that stretches down through history and around the world!
On Purim we bake or buy tasty pastries called "Oznei Haman". (Which means "Haman's Ears" in Hebrew). The pastries are sometimes called "Hamantaschen" (Which means "Haman's Pockets" in Yiddish). The triangular pastries are traditionally filled with poppy seeds. Yup, the seeds of the opium poppy. But the only buzz you'll get from "Hamantaschen" will be the yummy taste and the joy of Jewish continuity and survival. Some people prefer other kinds of pastry fillings. On Purim, we dress up our kids in costumes and send them to knock on the doors of our friends and neighbors.But unlike the Halloween tradition, costumed Purim kids are not on "trick or treat" missions. They bring a plate of food treats to give to the people whose doors they knock on. This Purim custom is a way of letting our fellows know that we are celebrating the survival and continuity of the Jewish people and a way of expressing our love of our neighbors.
(And what better treat to deliver on this occassion than a plate of "Haman's Ears"?) HAPPY PURIM TO US ALL!