Growing up, Purim was one of my favorite Jewish holidays. I got to dress up in costume for school (I attended a Jewish Day School until 8th grade) and exchanged goodie bags full of snacks and gifts with friends. It just seemed like another (albeit tamer) version of Halloween, minus the trick-or-treating. It wasn’t until later in my life as a young adult, that I truly appreciated the significance of this holiday and specifically the powerful role that women played in it.
To give some background, Purim commemorates the salvation of the Jewish people in ancient Persia from the hands of the king’s evil right-hand man, Haman. Each year we re-tell the story of Purim, which is full of colorful characters and tons of plot twists. Most communities put on some kind of play (or “schpiel”) to act out the story in a lively way. Here is a link that tells the story in a nutshell. To celebrate, people dress up in costume, drink booze, and eat a festive meal. Sounds pretty awesome, right?
While all of this is indeed fun, what I find more significant about Purim are the women in the story, who stood up for their beliefs, despite adversity. As a kid, I always viewed Queen Vashti as one of the villains, but now I realize that she was really one of the heroes in the story. When she refused to dance in front of her husband (the king of Persia) and his friends at a party, he sentenced her to be executed. I can’t imagine what it must’ve been like to stand up to the most powerful man in the world, understanding that you were risking your life when you did so. Vashti is a feminist hero. The king’s second wife, Queen Esther, is known as the primary hero of the story, and one of the few female heroes in Jewish history. She too stood up to the king, realizing the risks, but ultimately her sacrifice paid off and the Jewish people were saved.
This year, I’ve been thinking a lot about the two strong female characters of the Purim story. Although Adina is still too young to understand this story, I want to start building holiday memories together that I’ll be able to share with her as she grows older around the theme of powerful women. Today I am sharing three ways that I am celebrating girl power this Purim.
1. Hamentashen Baking with the Ladies
Last week I went to my friend’s place for a Purim girls’ night and it was so much fun. We enjoyed a delicious meal together and baked hamantaschen, one of the signature treats of Purim. Here is the link to the recipe we used. Each of us brought a different filling to put inside of the hamantaschen. I love different flavored jams and Nutella, while Michael loves poppy seed filling. There was something so special about having quality time with my group of girlfriends and making these traditional three-cornered pastries that our ancestors have baked for thousands of years.
2. Mishloach Manot Gift Exchange
One of the observances of Purim is to exchange gift baskets with food and drink with family, friends, and others. It originated to ensure that everyone has enough food for the Purim feast and to increase love and friendship among Jews and their neighbors. These gift baskets are called “Mishloah Manot.” This year, I put my own spin on this tradition. While our hamentashen were in the oven during our girls’ night last week, did a White Elephant gift exchange. Each of us brought a small wrapped gift and we pulled numbers out of a hat to determine who got to draw a gift first. It was such a fun way to bond with my girlfriends - who doesn’t love getting a surprise gift?
3. Feminist Icon Costume
Last year, for Adina’s first Purim, we dressed up in costume as a family. Michael and I were bakers and Adina was a cupcake. She was only four months old! Although it was an adorable costume, it was not so meaningful.
This year, when thinking about what costume we would be, I wanted something more significant, evoking the theme of girl power. As you may remember from our Halloween costumes, I love a good DIY. I wanted this DIY to be fun, easy, and inexpensive, using materials I already owned. With these things in mind, it didn’t take long to decide to do matching Rosie the Riveter costumes. Rosie the Riveter is a cultural icon of WWII, who represents the women who worked in factories and shipyards, replacing the male workers who joined the military. Rosie the Riveter is used as a symbol of American feminism and women’s economic power.
Keep reading to see how my mama-baby Rosie the Riveter costumes came to life!
- Two red bandanas
- Denim outfits
- Yellow and Blue poster board paper
- White paint Sharpie
- Double sided tape or glue
Directions for “We Can Do It” Sign
- With a pencil, trace the speech bubble on your blue poster board
- Cut out your blue speech bubble and place it on top of the yellow poster board. Use tape or glue to secure.
- With pencil, trace the bubble letters for “We Can Do It” onto the blue speech bubble. Adjust the size as needed.
- Once you have the bubble letters the way you want them in pencil, begin filling them in with the white paint Sharpie. It dries pretty quickly. I did 3 coats of Sharpie paint.
- Hold up the poster behind you for a classic Rosie the Riveter photo-op!
I am so happy with how the costumes turned out and even happier that I made it using mostly items I already owned! Adina kept the bandana on for a long time (she’s used to me putting all kinds of accessories in her hair) and I think we nailed the Rosie the Riveter look. It was so much fun to listen to the Purim story and sing holiday songs together at synagogue. Everyone loved our matching costumes! I can’t wait to tell Adina one day about who Rosie is and how she symbolizes female empowerment.
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