Stuck at Home for Purim

We are quite hopeless at keeping up with holiday dates; my husband sent me a text this morning saying he thinks Purim started yesterday or today? Either way I was thrilled, because our car has gone off to the mechanic for a service and so the children and I must entertain ourselves at home. Purim is a joyous occasion that is all about having fun, and it immediately gave me some ideas for how we can occupy ourselves without leaving the house. 

My knowledge of Purim (as with many things Jewish) comes from American popular culture, most notably the Christopher Guest film: “For Your Consideration“. I knew it involved dress-ups and noisemakers.

This holiday was made for my children.

We began by digging through our well-appointed dress-up basket, testing bunny ears, capes and vintage jackets. But the ideas started flowing and I realised it was time to let the kids create a costume from scratch, so we set about making masks.

We hunted around for something the size of the kids’ faces and used a pot to trace circles onto cardboard. Then we used a cylindrical building block for eyes. After tracing and cutting the mask forms, we painted them in the murky, watery colours that the children gleefully mixed together. Later, I’ll punch holes in the sides and attach elastic to the masks so they can be worn.

While the paint was drying we turned our attention to noisemakers. It’s a favourite pastime around here: hitting, smacking, banging any object with another to see what noise it makes. This morning an upturned bucket was a Chinese drum, yesterday some metal stair rails made a satisfying clang when kicked by small feet.

The traditional Purim noise-maker is a gragger or grogger, which consists of a central barrel with notches, around which a sort of cartridge is spun. The cartridge contains a narrow metal or wood plank that catches and clicks on each notch as it goes around. Or as my children laughed when we discussed this, it goes “gragger gragger gragger!”.

Sadly, our graggers are broken, which is why we were analysing the inner workings together. The basic concept of the flat piece catching on a turning wheel and making a sound reminded me of an old childhood way to “pimp your ride.”

Did you ever peg a playing card to your bike and pretend you were riding a motorbike? It didn’t work very well with our tricycles, even with two pegs, but it was fun to try.

We’re starting small with our children and Jewish customs but since Purim is such a light-hearted holiday, featuring lots of fun and theatrical traditions, I can see this becoming a memorable date on our yearly calendar.


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