Faith

Christians Could Take a Page from the Jewish Holiday Purim

A representation of the Jewish holiday Purim includes a face mask and hamantaschenDeposit Photos

Every October, we see Christians try to rebrand Halloween. But the Jewish holiday Purim has an interesting take on wearing costumes.

Members of the Jewish faith are set to mark the Jewish holiday Purim this weekend. Purim commemorates the saving of the Jewish people from annihilation as recorded in the Book of Esther. 

To sum it up quickly, Mordecai, who was Jewish, infuriated Haman, the viceroy to the king, by not bowing down to him. Haman persuaded King Ahasuerus to allow him to execute all of the Jews. He selected a date of execution using lots, which is what Purim means.

But the king had married Esther, a relative of Mordecai, who didn’t initially reveal her Jewish heritage. When Esther revealed that heritage to Ahasuerus and begged him to spare her people, he became furious with Haman. He then had Haman hanged from the gallows he intended to use to execute Mordecai.

As a result of the Jewish population being saved, they held a day of feasting and rejoicing. Wikipedia tells us Jews celebrate Purim by exchanging gifts of food and drink, donating charity to the poor, and eating a celebratory meal. Synagogues feature public recitations of the Scroll of Esther. 

But another custom I find interesting is the tradition of wearing masks and costumes. 

Every October, when Halloween rolls around, some Christian churches go into mild panics about it. Over the years, many have started holding events called “Trunk or Treat” designed to do Halloween without calling it Halloween. As I’ve said before, I don’t think things like that fool God.

It’s one thing to discourage children from dressing up as evil characters. But there shouldn’t be anything scary about children dressing up in costumes — religious or secular — just to take part in a holiday that happens to be non-religious.

The Jewish holiday Purim is sometimes called ‘Jewish Halloween’

When Jews celebrate Purim by wearing costumes, there’s an interesting take at play. The philosophy behind concealing their identities is to remind them about God’s presence being hidden as well.

“The real lesson of Purim is that appearances are not everything and that God oftentimes operates behind the scenes and we can’t always directly perceive the intervention in our lives,” Rabbi Joshua Maroof told The Washington Post.

Business Insider actually lists four reasons for dressing in costumes:

  1. One hides oneself the way God hid Himself during the events of Purim. Here, it was Esther who stood up for her people and saved them. 
  2. One hides oneself to remember that the Jewish population hid their identity to avoid being targeted in Haman’s plot.
  3. One hides oneself when handing out charity so the recipients of the charity don’t feel embarrassed. 
  4. One hides onself to mark the king dressing up Mordecai in the royal clothes to honor him.  

Unlike the Christian and secular Halloween, which is all about receiving handouts, the Jewish holiday Purim involves costumes and giving handouts.

There’s a lot to admire in that. One shouldn’t have to be Jewish to see that.

Maybe if Christians could adapt their “trunk or treat” celebrations to focus on ways that God sometimes works behind the scenes and that giving can be better than receiving, they might not be so “frightened” of Halloween.

Just a thought to ponder between now and Oct. 31.

the authorPatrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.

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