Esther became queen of the Persian Empire and the heroine of the Book of Esther in the Old Testament when she saved her people from execution. She is honoured in the festival of Purim where the story of Esther is read, families and friends feast together and gifts are given to charities or the poor. It is a festive occasion that has been referred to as the Jewish Mardi Gras.
Traditionally, when the story of Esther is read, the listeners make noise when the name is Haman is spoken. Stomping feet, booing and hissing as well as shaking a gragger is done in response to his name. Young children can make a gragger from a clean margarine tub or other empty plastic container. Fill it about 1/4 full with dried beans or small rocks and decorate with stickers or permanent markers. Older children can paint the bottoms of two paper plates as well as decorate them with stickers and markers. When the plates are dry, punch holes around the edges and sew the plates together with yarn. An alternative is to staple the edges together. Add in the beans or gravel when you have only a few holes to sew or staple.
Purim Crowns and Scepters
Children can make a Queen Esther or King Xerxes crown with coloured paper and stick-on gems. Beads can be placed on chenille stems and bent to form tiara type crowns and glued onto a headband. Crown templates can be printed on gold paper and rhinestones glued onto them with glitter glue. Commercial crown kits are also available on craft websites.
The sceptres can be made by printing a top piece onto paper and decorating it with paint, glitter glue or more gems. Cut the pattern out and glue around the top of a paper towel or wrapping paper tube. Another idea is to glue a small dowel rod onto a styrofoam ball. Cover the ball with ribbon and add long pieces to hang from the ball.
One traditional snack for Purim is the Hamantashen. This is a cookie made from sugar, flour, eggs and orange juice with a jam filling. Cut the cookie dough into circles and add 1/2 tsp of marmalade, jam, jelly or cherry pie filling. Fold the edges of the cookie in to make a triangle and bake for a cookie that resembles Haman's three-sided hat. Other snacks might include bread chunks or fruit such as grapes, raisins, cantaloupe and apple slices.
Play the game called "If I Were King or Queen." Make a special fabric circle of shiny cloth for the king or queen to sit on and give one rule they would enforce if they were king or queen. Many of the websites listed in the "References" section have Esther colouring pages and printable colouring books. Quizzes, crossword and word search puzzles are also available as well as printable templates for Purim masks and ideas for Purim costumes. The "Veggie Tales" video series for kids has an excellent video about Queen Esther about her bravery from when she became queen to how she saved her people.