Purim is a Jewish holiday celebrating the deliverance of the Jews recorded in the book of Esther. 15 second summary:
No one knew beautiful Queen Esther was a Jew. Haman, the royal vizier, was angry at her cousin Mordecai, and convinced the king that all Jews must be eliminated. Esther took great risks to please the king, and he offered her anything, “up to half my kingdom.” She asked for the lives of her people. The king was horrified by what had almost happened, executed Haman and made Mordecai his second in command.
Purim is first and foremost celebrated by reading the book of Esther, usually out loud. It’s really a very short book, and quite interesting (hint: high stakes beauty contest, fancy banquets, gallows, and more). In addition, there’s a tradition that the name of Haman must be drowned out, so people stomp their feet, use noisemakers, and generally create a ruckus every time his name comes up.
Celebrations also include giving small gifts of food to friends (as per Esther 9:22), more gifts to the needy (ditto), and eating a special meal (because what’s a holiday without food?). If you’re interested in trying out a traditional Purim cookie, here’s a recipe for hamantashen, or “Haman’s pockets.”
*Of course, since Purim is a Jewish holiday, it follows the Jewish (lunar) calendar, where it is always 14th of Adar. In addition, in our calendar a Jewish day starts at sunset one day and ends at nightfall the next. So, for 2013, Purim lasts from sunset February 23 to nightfall February 24.
“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”