This week we are celebrating the Jewish festival of Purim. This is one of the most exciting festivals for children for the following reasons:
- You get to wear fancy dress.
- People give you lots of sweet treats.
- You are TOLD to make as much noise as you can!
(An additional exciting point about this festival for grown ups is that you are pretty much commanded to have a few drinks.)
Purim celebrates the victory of the Jewish people in Persia. A powerful government official named Haman was plotting to kill all the Jews. Meanwhile, the king, Ahashverosh, had fallen in love with a woman called Esther. She was Jewish. They married and Esther became queen, she told her husband about Haman’s plan and pleaded with the king to stop him. The king granted her request, Haman was overthrown, the Jews were saved and this is why we celebrate Purim!
On Purim we listen to this story and each time the name Haman is read aloud we make as much noise as we can to drown out the sound of his name.
It is really difficult to find books about Jewish festivals and Judaism, apart from general ones that are explanatory. I am so so grateful to the team at PJ Library who provide books about Judaism every month to children under 8 for free. It is so brilliant to be able to read stories that contain people and activities that my children can relate to.
Last month PJ Library sent us One, Two, Three, Purim! by Naomi Shulman, illustrated by Nora Hilb and is published by the PJ Publishing.
This is a sweet story that follows a little girl and her dog through the highlights of Purim. We see her making hamantaschen, (these are the triangular shaped biscuits you can see poking out of her basket on the front cover) dressing up, taking gifts of sweets to her friends and going to a Purim party. The text on each page ends with “one, two, three!” this repetition is great for little ones to predict and join in with the story. There are plenty of things in threes on each page that you can help your little one count too, three hamantaschen, three children etc. The illustrations are beautiful, bright and with plenty to look at and talk about. I’ve been reading this with my baby boy and clapping or patting the book three times at the end of every page which he really enjoys.
Haman is said to have worn a triangular shaped hat and this ties in nicely with the theme of one, two, three running through the book.
Haman’s iconic hat is the reason behind the triangular biscuits, hamantaschen. The literal meaning is Haman’s pocket as the biscuits are like pockets with a filling inside. This week we have baked some, ready for Purim. There are tons of different things you can fill hamantashcen with, probably the most traditional is a sweet poppy seed mixture, however I never liked this when I was younger and I doubt very much that my picky 3 year old will either so we decided to fill ours with peanut butter and chocolate spread.
There are many recipes online for hamantashcen but the ones we did are basically a soft shortbread type dough. To make their shape you roll out the dough and cut out circles. Then place a small amount of your chosen filling in the middle of each circle. Our peanut butter ones are a mix of peanut butter with a little icing sugar, honey and vanilla extract. Last year we just used peanut butter out of the jar but it was too soft and the biscuits didn’t hold their shape. This mix made it a bit stiffer so we could roll it into little balls to put on the dough.
Then, you fold up one side of the circle, fold another side to make a corner and pinch it. Then fold up the third side pinching all the corners leaving a bit of the filling peeking out and bake. We made loads, I lost count after 30!
It’s customary at Purim to give gifts of at least two foods to friends and family, this is called mishloach manot, so we have bagged some of our hamantaschen up with some raisins to give out.
Here’s one of our favourite Purim songs to listen to, it’s performed by an amazing a capella group called The Maccabeats, my bigger boy loves listening to them. The song is set to the tune of P!nk’s song “Raise Your Glass” really entertaining and does a great job explaining the festival. I also can’t believe the whole thing is made without any instruments, just with their voices, blows my mind every time I listen!
You can read more about PJ Library in the UK here:
And their American site here:
Happy Purim, Chag Purim Sameach!