An old joke goes something like this:
Purim celebrates the escape from annihilation of the Jewish people under the Persian king Ahasuerus. As told in the biblical Book of Esther, the king banished his wife Vashti for refusing to appear naked before his guests. He then held a beauty contest during which he picked a beautiful Jewish woman named Esther as his new queen. Meanwhile, one of his courtiers, a man named Haman, was plotting to kill the Jews in the kingdom. Esther and her uncle, Mordecai, successfully conspire to foil the plot by wining and dining the king and then begging him to spare her people, which he does. (For the full version of the story)
Child: “What holiday are we celebrating today, Ima (Mother)?”
Mother: “The one where they tried to kill us and failed. Now, let’s eat!”
Of course, the very thing that makes most jokes funny is the kernel of truth at their foundation. Purim is one of the holidays containing that very kernel of truth.
Purim itself is a joyful holiday filled with costumes, noisemakers, gifts of food, charitable giving and, of course, feasting. The representative food for Purim is a triangular shaped pastry with fruit, poppyseed, or nut fillings called Hamantaschen, named for Haman and representing the three-cornered hat he wore as Prime Minister.