Jews have lots of holidays. We have a New Year’s in the fall (Rosh Hashanah), the original Arbor Day (Tu B’Shvat), an Easter without bunnies but with four cups of wine and flourless chocolate cake (Passover). Best of all, we have Purim.
What is Purim, you ask? The short answer: It’s a Jewish Halloween-like-thing in the spring, but instead of getting sick on candy, you’re supposed to get sick on alcohol. Confused? Read on as we explain the holiday through the titles and plots of your favorite books, TV shows, and movies. This is one instance where the long answer is actually a lot more interesting.
The Story of Purim (also known as Esther’s Scroll)
Once upon a time, in the city of Shushan, a king with an unpronounceable name—Ahasuerus—threw a big party for his armies, a kind of Great Gatsby get-together: lots of eating, lots of drinking.
Source: Tumblr/A Movie Dream
He asked his wife, Vashti, to show off her beauty in front of everyone—Jewish scholars are pretty sure he meant her to do a Strip Tease—and she refused. Rather like Henry VIII in The Other Boleyn Girl, Ahasuerus had Vashti executed.
Clearly, Ahasuerus needed a new wife. He had all the young eligible women come before him, kind of like an episode of The Bachelor. One of the women was an orphan named Esther (yes, that should remind you of Dickens‘ Bleak House, where do you think big writers get ideas from?) who was raised by her uncle, Mordecai. Following The Rules of Attraction, Ahasuerus picked the pretty Esther to be his new wife.
Just like any good story, this one has a subplot: Mordecai heard two seedy dudes one day talking about Assassin’s Creed—sorry, that’s not right, they were talking about about assassinating the King. Mordecai hurried to do The Good Samaritan thing and warned his new nephew-in-law the King. The plot was thwarted and Mordecai’s deed was written down in the court’s record book.
Back to the main plot. In Shushan, Haman gets angry when Mordecai doesn’t bow to him. Mordecai explains that Jews only bow to God, but Haman doesn’t care. Instead, he plans to execute all of the Jews.
Maybe feeling guilty for the upcoming genocide, the King had Insomnia one night and asked his servants to read him the court’s record book to pass The Hours. They read him about that one time when Mordecai saved his life. The King later chatted with Haman and asked how he should reward a faithful servant. Haman assumed the King was talking about him, since he suggested that the honored servant should be given fine clothes and led, on horseback, through the streets, accompanied by All the King’s Men. The King, showing one of the few real examples of both Irony and Meaning in the Hebrew Bible, had Haman himself lead Mordecai down the streets of Shushan.
Source: Comic Book Resources
Well, after that Haman was more furious than Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and he got even more serious about the Killing Spree thing. He set up a gallows for Mordecai, wanting to make an example of him à la Joffrey and Ned Stark in A Game of Thrones. Esther and Mordecai got wind of this and ordered all the Jews of Shushan to pray and fast for three days. On the third day, because stories like this work according to The Rule of Three, Esther told the King she was Jewish and that killing all the Jews would mean killing her, too.
Source: Know Your Meme
The King, outraged that Haman was trying to get his Beloved, Queen Esther, killed, ordered Haman to be hanged on the gallows to punish his Pride and Prejudice. Mordecai himself was appointed to be Haman’s replacement, and, since this was how the King handled big events, there was another big party…
They all lived happily Ever After, and probably drank a lot more. The consensus among many Jewish scholars is that on Purim, Jews must drink until they don’t know the difference between the blessed Mordecai and the cursed Haman.
So, To Drink or Not to Drink? This year, Purim coincides with St. Patrick’s Day. Have fun, be safe, and remember to never drink and drive!