New Twists on Old Traditions

Purim Hamantaschen Gluten Free Elderberry Syrup Traditional Biscuit Recipe

Happy Purim to you! The sun has gone down and the festival can officially begin, but actually we have spent the afternoon frolicking in a celebration that my husband has declared is a Renegade Purim.

We held a “Purim Picnic Party” in a local park and took a huge basket of costumes, a suitcase full of instruments and rattles, and invited a bunch of kids to come and dress up and make noise with us. There are very few photos of the fun we had because we were having too much fun.

Purim New Traditions Cultural Experience Jewish Celebration Children Holiday Kids

I gather that this is a key purpose of the festival: making merry and having a great time. The other key purpose seems to be making and eating Hamantaschen, which are fruit-filled biscuits shaped to look like the ears of the villain of the Purim story.

And just as I went a bit left-of-centre with the mode of celebration, I also struggled to stick with the traditional recipes that were given to me for the biscuits. I ended up making two batches and started them off the same way; by using equal parts room-temperature butter and cream cheese, to create a lovely texture for the biscuit base.

Purim Hamantashen Gluten Free Traditional Jewish Cookie Biscuit Recipe

To one bowl I added plain flour and to the other I added dessicated coconut and LSA mix (which is made from Linseed, Soy and Almond meal). I combined them both well until I had a firm dough, which I put into the fridge for half an hour.

While the dough became stiff, I combined dates, sultanas, prunes and dried apricots with hot water on the stovetop until it was syrupy. This became the filling for my first batch of biscuits.

Purim Hamantash Gluten Free Elderberry Jam Traditional Cookie Biscuit Recipe

I decided to fill my gluten-free batch with the sticky jam that I made a few months ago with the elderberries from the tree in our backyard. I hadn’t strained the berries so it wasn’t suitable for cordial and it didn’t seem quite right for spreading on toast (it was a very simple recipe with just the berries, sugar and lemon, a bit like this).

Purim Hamantaschen Gluten Free Elderberry Jam Syrup Traditional Cookie Recipe

It turns out that it takes practice to take the step from elegant pastry rounds to excellent Hamantaschen triangles. I never really mastered it and then I ran out of time to get to our picnic. My attempts at gluten-free biscuits looked like puddles when I pulled them out of the oven, so I abandoned them on the stove stop and rushed out the door.

How incredible and wonderful, then, that two other attendees had gone to the trouble to make and bring their own, including another gluten-free version (seen at left in the picture below; the recipe sounds a bit like this one from Friendly Little Kitchen).

Mine are the ones at bottom right that are not triangles at all.

Purim New Traditions Cultural Jewish Hamantaschen Healthy Sugar Free Celebration Children Kids

We told noisy stories, held a noisy parade and played noisy games. Then nobody wanted to come home.

Purim Cultural Jewish Celebration Costume Tradition Cookie Biscuit Recipe

When I finally arrived back in the kitchen, I looked again at those gluten-free puddles and they had come good upon cooling. They were a little bit rustic, perhaps, but recognisable triangles (see the photo at the very top of this post).

And to be fair, all my Hamantaschen — of whatever shape — were actually really delicious.

So I think we were happy to be renegades with our celebration of Purim. Our festivities were a bit “unorthodox” to say the least, and our biscuits were non-traditional.

But this was a fantastic opportunity to connect with other families in our area, in a really fun way that held meaning for us.

Purim New Traditions Cultural Experience Jewish Celebration Children Many Cha Cha


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.