Purim Sameach

The best holiday of the year began last night. It’s not the best-known Jewish holiday, but it’s the one where everyone dresses up in costumes, reads a story in the silliest manner possible, eats lots of delicious cookies, and gets drunk: Purim!

The Beth Shalom community is fairly family-oriented, so we didn’t follow that final requirement, but we had a great party all the same. It began with the reading of the Megillah. American-style Purim Spiels (with, say, Beatles music or Broadway showtunes) aren’t a thing here—I got blank looks when I asked about it—but the reading was still fairly dramatized, with a few Hebrew songs thrown in. It was in German, but we pretended to be reading the Hebrew scroll. (The cantor sang the beginning and the end, and we had to do the rolling and unrolling.)

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Afterwards, we ate lots of food, including wonderful lox and Hamantaschen. The Rabbi kept coming around offering absurdly strong shots of plum schnapps. There was a raffle (I didn’t bother) and a costume contest (I didn’t win). Some of the costumes would have been outrageously inappropriate in the States—I saw small children dressed as Native Americans and as Confederate soldiers. (Actually, the Confederate soldier’s twin brother was dressed as a Union soldier, which I found cute in spite of myself.) I dressed as a princess. I didn’t get any pictures, but imagine the (blue) dress below with hair down, a pearl necklace, and a pearl circlet. The small girls at the party decided I was Cinderella.

This picture is actually from the Jane Austen ball at Cambridge last year, so the hairstyle is historical rather than princessy.
This picture is actually from the Jane Austen ball at Cambridge last year, so the hairstyle is historical rather than princessy.

But as fun as the party last night was, for me, Purim started two days ago with the beginning of my Hamantaschen-baking marathon. Perhaps “tetrathalon” would be a more appropriate term. Events included translating all recipes from imperial to metric units, searching frantically for uncommon ingredients in Germany (peanut butter, chocolate chips, brown sugar, liquid vanilla), carrying many kilos the half-mile from the store home, and dealing with my total lack of baking supplies.

I managed to overcome all the obstacles and back nearly 200 Hamantaschen in six flavors: plum, currant, crab-apple, Nutella, lemon, and cream-cheese-chocolate-chip. The lemon ones—filled with my homemade, super-tart lemon curd—were my favorites, though the plum and currant ones were also excellent. The others were a tad sweet for me but went the fastest at the party, so I don’t regret making them. About 50 Hamantaschen went to the Purim party, and more will be distributed to my choir and friends over the next week.

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