Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Kids in costumes - but it's not Halloween

Last week began with anticipation.  At least for the kids who knew Purim was coming.  As I was walking up to Ulpan on Wednesday morning, March 16th, it occured to me that it might just be the day that Ulpan Gordon was planning it's holiday celebration.  Sure enough, the one day of last week that I could actually attend, was the one day we didn't do any real studying.  But it was still interesting, as you can see from the top photo, all the classes were brought together for a kind of talent show and party.

The week prior, we prepared for Purim by reading the story of the Scroll of Ester in Hebrew.  The Jewish kids had a leg up on me, as they knew the story and could thereby deduce the meaning of many of the new words in it (not to mention they new the names of all the characters).  Thanks to a friendly Canadian friend in class (aren't all Canadian's friendly?)  I got the English translation, which, afterwards, made re-reading the Hebrew version much easier. 

It goes like this - there was a King, and there were the Jews.  The King got rid of his first wife.  He threw a party to find a second wife.  Mordachi, uncle to Ester, told her to go and woo the King, but don't tell him she's a Jew.  She did.  They married.  Then one day Mordechi didn't show the King's advisor, Haman, appropriate respect.  Haman told the King to kill the Jews, starting with Mordechi as the example.  Ester heard and told the King he'd have to kill her too because she was Jewish.  He didn't like the idea.  So he killed Haman instead. 

So to celebrate, every year on Purim, kids dress up in costume, and they eat triangle-shaped cookies by a name that translates into Haman's Ears.  This goes on for nearly a week.  Kids have been out in costume since last Wednesday.  They had Sunday and Monday off school this week as well.  The bottom photo is a class group I saw yesterday morning.  The middle photo is from a street party over the weekend.  It's a big deal here.  Probably the most boisterous holiday I've seen here yet. 

I've asked what the connection is between the costume parties and the Scroll of Ester.  No one seems to know, although someone told me it might be that the King's wife-recruitment party may have been a costume ball.  Or it may represent the mascarade/deception required by Ester, which saved the Jews.  Every Jewish story I have heard so far follows a theme of saving the Jews.  I don't know much about religion, honestly, so I can't say whether other religions are focused on this theme of "saving our people."  I don't recall Native American stories including much of this.  But maybe I only got the elementary school version.  What does the inclusion/omission of this topic in folklore say about cultures? 

No comments:

Post a Comment