On the Jewish holiday of Purim, it is a fun and festive tradition to dress in costume. Whether it’s as a character of the Purim story, another character from Biblical or Jewish history, or something completely unrelated to the Bible or Judaism, masquerading and dressing in costume is a wonderful tradition--not just for children, but for everyone young at heart!
The Story of Purim: One of Secrets and Masks
Those familiar with the Purim story from the Biblical Book of Esther will notice that there are many times during the story that the characters are acting, hiding, or pretending to be someone or something different than who or what they truly are: King Ahashuerus (“Achashveirosh”, in Hebrew) is generally anything but royal, regal, or king-like in his behavior--he drinks much too much, parties all the time, and can’t make a decision without help from someone else. Haman is supposed to be the king’s trusted advisor, but really he’s self-absorbed, self-important, and an anti-Semite. The king’s guards are supposed to be protecting him but are actually plotting to kill him. Mordechai’s identity as the hero who saved the king from this dastardly plot is hidden until the most opportune moment. And, perhaps most important of all, when Esther is chosen by Ahashuerus as the queen, she hides her identity as a Jew, eventually revealing herself only to save all the Jews in the end.
And the Biggest Hidden Identity in the Purim Story . . .
When it comes time to hear the story of Purim at the Megillah reading, everyone focuses hard on all the names. The name of Mordechai is cheered, Esther’s bravery is revered, and the name of Haman is drowned out with uproarious noise! But one name is not heard in the Megillah at all, and that is the name of G-d. The story of Purim by all accounts seems to be a completely human story . . . and a soap opera at that! Instead of an obvious miracle, like in the story of the Exodus or the story of Hanukkah, the Jews are saved in the Purim story by a “hidden” miracle . . . by a series of coincidences . . . by everyone being in just the right place at just the right time. This doesn’t mean, of course, that G-d wasn’t there. G-d’s presence was just “masked” in the actions of the humans, an important lesson to be learned.
Purim Costumes for Everyone
So, while the tradition of masquerading on Purim is certainly one of fun and frivolity, it also has a deeper meaning, with its roots in the Purim story itself. But, oh, what a fun tradition!
Often in the United States, and in other communities in the Diaspora, the kids enjoy dressing up as characters from the Purim story: King Ahashuerus, Mordechai, the beautiful Queen Esther, the feminist Queen Vashti, even the wicked Haman. (Or, if they have really creative parents, they might even dress up as a giant Hamentaschen!) It’s also fun to create costumes of other Biblical figures: Moses, Pharaoh, Miriam, or Deborah.
But, of course, there are no limits. Especially, in Israel, it’s even more common to dress up in costumes completely unrelated to the Bible or Purim (a bit like the Israeli version of Halloween)! Often, Purim parades in Israel include the likes of Dora the Explorer, SpongeBob SquarePants, or the Wicked Witch of the West. It’s all about imagination . . . and it’s not just for kids! Most important of all, it’s about fun. Happy Purim!
For More Information
For more information about Costumes or other Judaica items, feel free to contact our Judaica experts with any questions or concerns.