Next Tuesday is the Jewish festival of Purim, which celebrates a long ago victory over bigotry, oppression and potential genocide. You can read all about it in the Bible in the Book of Esther.
Purim is a bit of a wild time because it is the only time of the year when Jewish tradition recommends drinking to excess. There are fancy dress parties (including a tradition of cross-dressing) and mockery of those who at other times are much respected. The Book of Esther is read in the synagogue and whenever the villain of the piece is mentioned his name is drowned out by stamping, shouting and other noises. (Like all Jewish festivals the celebration begins at nightfall of the previous evening and it is on Monday evening that all the festivities will take place.
Purim has a serious side. It celebrates freedom from oppression and, because the hero is actually a heroine, Purim also celebrates the importance of women.
If you want to know more why not drop in to Purim on the Net at
This is a noisemaker (you can get a wav file to go with it from the site mentioned). We call it gregger (sometimes gragger). You probably know it as a football rattle.
Hard on the heels of this message there follows another to which I have attached the text of an assembly that I did a couple of years ago in case it is of any use to anyone - feel free to use any of it (or, of course, none of it) (Couldn't send them out in one because of the file size limit)Unlike Chanukkah when present giving has developed to match the majority cultural festival of Christmas, Purim has a long tradition of being a time for giving charity (known to Jews as Tzadakah) and gifts. It is also a time of fancy dress parades and "misrule" (I find it interesting that Purim falls at the same general time of year as Mardi Gras). One very popular tradition is the performance of Purim Schpiels, which are plays enacting the Purim story. In my community the parents of children who attend the Sunday Morning religion school often put on a Purim Schpiel and the reading of the Megillat Esther (the book of Esther) at the Erev (evening) Purim Service is followed by a fancy dress parade in the Synagogue. People dress up as all sorts of characters from Jewish history and tradition. Family groups often work together. I remember a few years ago that the four of us dressed up in cagoules, walking boots etc. festooned ourselves with maps and binoculars and wandered around the synagogue trying to find our way to the front. When we eventually got there we announced ourselves as Wandering Jews! You can find out much more by visiting Purim Pages at www.uahc.org/va/bnai_shalom/purim.html where there is masses of information about history, traditions, food, jokes, kids' stuff and lots of links to other Purim sites. The site belonging to a Reform Jewish ccommunity in the States called Temple B'nai Shalom. American Jews tend to use the word temple when European Jews use synagogue. B'nai Shalom means Children of Peace.