All I remember of Purim from my childhood was that it was the one time of year you had a proper excuse for eating Hamantashen, the three-cornered cookies with a poppy-seed filling (or prune, or raspberry, or apricot). I have loved these cookies all my life, but I only knew the story of Purim in a vague, general way, as befits my lack of Jewish education in a fully assimilated and non-religious family. Now, however, my life is different in two big ways. First, I have children of my own, and I find that I care a lot that they know and appreciate their Jewish history and cultural heritage. Second, I find myself living in a town with very few Jewish families in it. I grew up in a suburb of New York City that was very mixed, racially, ethnically, you name it. But no matter what, there were plenty of Jews around, and I was in middle school before I realized, with a shock, that Jews were actually a minority! Now I live in another suburb of New York, but this one is not nearly as diverse as the town I come from. Lets put it this way—I have to drive two towns away to get a decent bagel, and while this town does Christmas in a big way, you wont see too many Hanukkah decorations, if any. All of which is fine with me, since I married a woman who was raised Catholic and our kids celebrate all of the holidays, which is a lot of fun for them. But still, as I said, I want them to be familiar with their Jewish culture, which, true to tradition, begins in the home.
Purim is a great holiday in which to involve the kids for a number of reasons-first, it is one of the happier Jewish holidays. It is all about rejoicing and celebrating Queen Esther, who foiled the evil Hamen and saved hundreds of Jewish people from an ill fate. She happened to do this by giving Hamen and his army a little too much wine so they were too loopy to move forward with their plan. So on Purim, we celebrate by drinking great wine in the company of good friends, and making and eating little cookies shaped like funny hats-Hamantashen, literally translated to mean Hamen’s hat. It’s almost like we’re having a laugh at his expense. Hey, you know that they say…living well is the best revenge!
I was thrilled this Purim when my wife, who loves to bake, made Hamantashen from scratch. My five-year old daughter was her assistant, and even my three-year old son got in on the action, helping to fold up the corners on the cookies. I got a big kick out of telling my daughter the story of Purim, and the Hamantashen came out better by far than the bakery-made cookies I grew up on. So I guess I have to thank my Sicilian-American wife for getting me in touch with Purim and making the day so sweet, literally.
For the Hamantashen recipe, go here.
For a full read on the story of Purim go here
– By Adam Brightman