Purim Quick Facts - ZA

AKA NameFestival of lots
HashtagsCompiled on#Purim
Related Hashtags#ShabbatShalom, #BringThemHome
2024 Date23 March 2024
2025 Date14 March 2025


Top X Posts (formerly Tweets) for Purim -


Purim History

Purim commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people from the threat of extermination in the ancient Persian Empire as recorded in the Book of Esther. The observance is marked with customs such as reading the Megillah (Book of Esther), sending food gifts to friends (mishloach manot), giving to the poor (matanot l'evyonim), and holding a festive feast (seudah). The holiday is also characterized by buoyant festivity; it encourages dressing up in costumes and the use of masks, which differentiates it from other Jewish holidays.

In relation to South Africa's historical context, which is marred with the struggle against apartheid, Purim's account of liberation from oppression resonates deeply. The narrative of Queen Esther, who braved coming out to the Persian king about her Jewish identity and pleading for her people's safety, sends a powerful message about the courage it takes to contest injustice. South African Jews, many of whose forebears escaped harsh conditions in Lithuania and other parts of Eastern Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, can certainly relate to the story of survival and freedom that Purim celebrates.

In South Africa, families and synagogues come together for joyful Purim festivities, mirroring the global Jewish practice. Apart from the traditional rituals such as hearing the Megillah read, sending food parcels, and indulging in festive meals, carnivals and costume parties are also commonplace. Most of these activities take place at sundown, following the Jewish lunar calendar, making it different from the Gregorian calendar typically used in South Africa. Purim generally falls in the month of March or early April, but specific dates can vary year to year.

Facts about Purim

  • Purim is considered to be a joyous holiday often accompanied by celebrations, plays, festive food and costume parties.
  • Purim holiday is often preceded by fast, referred to as the Fast of Esther. This fast commemorates Esther's three days of fasting in preparation for her meeting with the king. The fast is observed from dawn until dusk on the eve of Purim.
  • The story of Purim is told in the book of Esther, which is also known as "the Scroll" (Megillah in Hebrew).
  • South African Jewish communities also participate in the Purim practice of matanot la'evyonim, giving to the poor. Organized efforts are often made to reach out to the broader South African community, reflecting the spirit of unity and charity that is central to the holiday.
  • Traditional foods, such as hamantaschen (triangular filled pastries), are baked and consumed during Purim in South Africa.

Top things to do in South Africa for Purim

  • Make a Mishloach Manot (also known as mishloach manos or shalach manos). This is a gift of at least two kinds of food that are ready to eat. Give them out to neighbors, friends and associates.
  • Make Hamantaschen cookies. These are pocket triangle shaped cookies that are often made with fruit, poppy seed or cheese filling.
  • Visit the Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre (JHGC): While not exclusive to Purim, the JHGC often has themed events and exhibitions during Jewish holidays and this is an opportunity to further understand Jewish history.
  • Read a book to learn more about Purim in South Africa:
    The Jewish Holidays: A Guide and Commentary - by Michael Strassfeld
    Jewish Holidays - by Michael Hilton

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