I am super excited to share this guest post from my sister, Becky! Today, she’s sharing some great ideas for how to celebrate Purim through a care package.
My husband calls Purim “Jewish Halloween.” We’ve– my Jewish husband and me, a Christian woman– been together for 8 years and celebrate most major Jewish holidays together. We talk about and celebrate the similarities and differences in our faiths. I’ve previously written about creating Hanukkah care packages and thought that Purim would be a great care package theme, too.
What is Purim?
The Purim story comes from the book of Esther. Growing up, I had heard the story in church, but I guess I had never thought so much about the amazing feat she pulled off until I became an adult. Purim is a celebration of Esther and her heroic story of saving the Jewish people from certain death at the hand of Haman. What an incredible reason to celebrate!
What’s the story of Purim?
Esther was a Jewish girl who became queen to King Xerxes (after he banished his previous wife, Queen Vashti, and summoned all the virgins from all the land to replace her). Esther, with the guidance of her cousin Mordecai, didn’t tell King Xerxes of her religion. Haman, a nobleman of Xerxes, was greatly offended that Mordecai didn’t bow down to him. In a punishment that didn’t fit the crime (seriously, if I ever hear another person say women are too emotional to be in positions of power, I swear…), Haman, with Xerxe’s blessing, decided to commit genocide against the Jewish people.
Perhaps in a moment of great distress and desperation, Mordecai tried to scare Esther into begging Xerxes for mercy, placing the huge burden of saving everyone onto her. He told her (which is one of my favorite Bible verses) in Esther 4:14, “Perhaps you were born for such a time as this.” Esther decided to rise to the occasion and approach Xerxes on her own, which was a great personal risk, because she could’ve been executed if he didn’t personally invite her.
After three days of fasting to prepare herself (the Jewish people in her town fasted as a show of solidarity), and visited Xerxes. She begged him to show mercy, and Xerxes ended the plans to kill all the Jews. In fact, he gave a decree that allowed all Jews to defend themselves against anyone who tried to murder them. Haman was hanged and Mordecai took Haman’s place as a nobleman for the king.
The meanings of the Purim story are many: Good triumphs over evil. God never forsakes God’s people. Women are strong and powerful. Queen Esther is remembered forever for putting the safety of her people above herself.
How is Purim celebrated?
My husband says Purim is a time to celebrate powerful women and eat sweets. As a kid, he enjoyed pretending to live like they did during Esther’s time and to share food, games, and fun with friends, family, and his community.
Culturally, Purim is known as a joyous, fun holiday, devoted to merrymaking and feasting. It may even be referred to as Jewish Carnival. It involves costumes, large parties, alcohol, and, like many Jewish holidays, a retelling of the story that inspires the celebration.
Of course, the first year that we’d be able to celebrate Purim together, there’s a pandemic so parties and gatherings are just not going to happen. Maybe you’re spending Purim apart from the people you’d normally celebrate with and now want to gather via Zoom. Or maybe you’re like me and want to be a part of the holiday your loved one observes, having never taken part yourself.
Making your Purim Care Package
Whatever your situation, you can throw a Purim party in a box!
First, you’ve got to help your loved one set the scene. No matter where they are– on a military deployment, in a college dorm room, or at their home– you can always do with a few festive decorations. Try a Purim banner or rainbow party decorations to spice up their Zoom background.
Dressing up is central to celebrating Purim, so you’ll want to include a nod to costumes in your box. Help your loved one get into costume with masks or go low-key with a goofy t-shirt. To be honest, this is probably the kind of Purim costume my husband would wear.
The Purim story
Because remembering and passing down history to the next generation is important to the Jewish community, include a copy of the Megillah to read. (If your loved one isn’t a big reader, there are graphic novel and comic book adaptations too!)
It’s not Purim without groggers! (Groggers are noisemakers. Shake them to drown out references to the villain when the Megillah is read aloud at a Purim get-together.) Toss a few of these groggers in to blot out Haman’s name.
Food is love, and it’s no different when it comes to a Purim care package. You can’t have Purim without Hamentaschen and wine. Shipping alcohol is illegal, so you can substitute sparkling cider or send wine using these methods. Make sure you know, too, what your recipient’s dietary restrictions and wishes are. If they observe Kosher practices, you’ll want to make sure that everything you send is, in fact, Kosher.
And don’t forget the table setting! Send themed paper plates and napkins to dress up your loved one’s table and add a little bit of joy when they’re far from home.
While making your care package, you can follow the Israeli tradition of creating and gifting Purim baskets, called Mishloach Manot. These baskets are considered a mitzvah (a good deed) and are given within the Jewish community to others. The tradition comes from the story of Esther, too. These baskets can incorporate small gifts and items, but tradition dictates that at least two items should be edible. Make sure that any food you send is able to be shipped to your destination, is packaged to avoid breaking or otherwise being destroyed or ruined, and is food-safe. (Read this to make sure you’re shipping food correctly and safely.)
- Bagels: The length of time your care package will be in transit determines if you’re able to send actual bagels. (Joanna actually successfully sent Panera bagels to her husband when he was deployed to Afghanistan because she vacuum sealed them before packing.) If you are worried about taking the chance, think about sending everything bagel seasoning, bagel crisps, or bagel chips. These options aren’t “the real deal” but they can offer a taste of home and are shippable too.
- Cookies: Similar to bagels, you’ll want to make sure that you can safely send homemade cookies, based on the length of time your box will be in transit. If you’re not the baking type or you’re playing it safe, these cookies are a good bet. (And they’re Kosher, too.)
- Nuts: Nuts are naturally a great food product to ship, since they don’t easily go bad (except in extreme circumstances). They’re also a fantastic alternative for people who might not want to receive a lot of sugary snacks or are being health conscious.
- Fruit: For shipping purposes, think dried, canned, or other food-safe alternatives that won’t go bad during mailing. Don’t send anything that has the potential to be a gross mess.
To complete the care package , donate to your local food bank in honor of your faraway loved one and include a print-out of the receipt.
Write a message on a Happy Purim card, seal up the box, and wish it well on its journey!
Chag Purim Sameach!
Looking For More Care Package Ideas? Try These:
- 40 Ways to Save Money on Care Packages
- The Gigantic List of Free Care Packages for Deployed Service Members
- Here’s What Troops Really Want in a Care Package