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The Feast of Lots. This holiday falls on the 14th of Adar, commemorating a day on which the Jews were saved from their oppressors. Read on the evening and morning of the holiday, the Book of Esther relates how Haman drew lots to determine when to put Jews of Persia to the sword. Fortunately, Haman’s scheme was foiled by the faithful Mordecai and by Queen Esther.

Purim is celebrated with great merriment after the fashion of the Persian Jews who made their victory over Haman an occasion “for feasting and gladness.” During the reading of the Book of Esther, children twirl noisemakers in derision at every mention of Haman’s name. Some Asian Jewish communities even hang Haman in effigy. Hamentaschen, or ears of Haman, are eaten, and it is considered a “good deed” to drink wine. Comic plays, called Purimspile, are presented at the seudah, or feast, with which the holiday closes. Among the finest of Purim customs is mishloah manot, the practice of sending gifts of food to friends and gifts of food and money to the poor.

The day after Purim is called Shushan Purim. This is so named because Jews of Shushan, the capital of Persia, fought their enemies for an additional day. Many other local Purims, established for later acts of deliverance, are observed, such as those celebrated in Tiberia, Israel, Egypt, Frankfurt, Germany, Saragossa, Spain, and other places. (See also Esther, Scroll of.)

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