Metalia (her blog pseudonym) is a mom of two who works out of her New York home. A Modern Orthodox Jew, she has over eighteen years of Jewish education under her belt and a wicked sense of humor to boot. Here she explains the meaning of Purim and the costume tradition that makes this joyous holiday so much fun.
What is Purim?
A lot of people refer to Purim as the "Jewish Halloween," since dressing up in costumes is one of the highlights of its celebration. The holiday commemorates the Jews in ancient Persia being spared -- through hidden miracles -- from being killed by an evil nobleman named Haman. Despite the, uh, dark origins, it's actually a fun and lighthearted holiday. We celebrate with a big festive meal, exchanging baskets with friends and family, filled with treats, candy (called mishloach manot) and triangular jam-filled pastries called "hamantaschen" (shaped to resemble Haman's tri-cornered hat). And of course, costumes!
What's with the Purim costumes?
The basis for the Purim costumes is that the whole story revolves around hidden miracles disguising themselves as natural occurrences and mistaken identities. Consequently, we give a nod to that by dressing up in costumes. It's also a way to get kids involved in the holiday. Way back when, people tended to just dress up like characters from the Purim story. But as time went on, they got more creative. In fact, certain people may have attended Purim costume parties in college dressed up as "Hit Me Baby One More Time"-era Britney Spears. Certain people can probably now no longer run for public office.
What was your favorite Purim costume as a child? Least favorite?
My absolute favorite Purim costume as a kid was my Annie dress that my mom handmade for me. I was fully obsessed with the movie, and wore it (along with the wig) for years, until it became too small. My least favorite was absolutely a mandatory clown costume, the three worst words for someone like me, who's totally stricken with coulrophobia. It was in some sort of kindergarten Purim pageant and my class was instructed to dress as clowns. I flat-out refused until my mom cajoled me by sewing me a tutu covered with felt hamantaschen, which I wore atop my heinous polka dot clown suit. It was not my finest moment, sartorially speaking.
How old are your kids and what are they wearing for 2010 Purim?
My son is 3.5 and my daughter is 1.5. My son is going to be DJ Lance (from Yo Gabba Gabba) this year, and my daughter is going to be Lady Gaga. My son's costume was his choice, and my daughter -- lacking the verbal ability to articulate an express desire not to be Lady Gaga -- was ours. I love figuring out creative costumes for Purim, so I take advantage of those first few years I have to dress 'em up in something fun, before it's all princesses and Superman.
Need a visual? Here's Metalia's son as Fat Elvis a few years ago, and her daughter as a hippie last Purim.