Hebrew Calendar Date: The fourteenth of Adar. Jerusalemites celebrate on the fifteenth of Adar.
Torah reference: Megillat Esther, the biblical Book of Esther, which is the last of the 24 books of the Tanach.
When it began:
Purim, derived from the word “lots”, commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people in the ancient Persian Empire during the fourth century BCE, where a plot had been formed by the wicked Haman, royal vizier of King Achashverosh, to annihilate them. Haman had drawn lots to choose the date to kill the Jews. He selected the 14th of Adar. His plans were foiled by Mordechai and his cousin and adopted daughter Esther who had become Queen of Persia. The day of planned slaughter became a day of deliverance, a day of feasting and rejoicing. The miraculous story was chronicled and written by Mordechai and Esther in Megillat Esther.
Purim is celebrated by including the Al Hanissim in the prayers and the Birkat Hamazon (Grace after Meals) and by performing the following 4 key commandments of the day:
Public recitation (reading of the megillah) of the Scroll of Esther, known as kriat ha-megillah, preferably in a synagogue or public setting to publicize the miracle.
Exchanging mishloach manot, reciprocal gifts of food and drink.
Donating matanot la’evyonim (charity to the poor).
Eating Se'udat Purim, the celebratory Purim meal.
It is customary to drink wine and alcoholic beverages.
Traditional triangular pastries, called Hamantaschen("Haman's pockets") or Oznei Haman ("Haman's ears") are served.
Dressing up with masks and costumes is a Purim favorite.
Public celebrations/feasts with gatherings of friends and family and often accompanied with music and dancing.
Purim is kabbalistically known as a very sacred day, and extremely auspicious day for prayer, when all earnest requests to God are answered.