Today is Mardi Gras, the famous Catholic day of feasting & fun, it is the prelude to Ash Wednesday in which many faithful around the world prepare for Easter with fasting & austerity. But this year Mardi Gras aligns incredibly close to another fun & feasting Jewish holiday: Purim.
Purim is a holiday that celebrates the Biblical story of Esther, a woman who tricked an ancient Near Eastern king of her Jewish background to seduce him (yes, seduce him) into foiling the plan of his evil advisor, Haman, from murdering the Jews. Read the story in the Bible, it’s juicy.
Read more from My Jewish Learning “A History of Purim”
Many Jews today, orthodox and not, celebrate by donning masks (in honor of Esther hiding her background), eating hamantaschen (to represent the evil Haman), and following the proverb of the day to get so drunk you cannot tell the difference between “cursed Haman and blessed Mordechai.”
Although the reason for celebrating is vastly different, the holidays do share a sense of wild gluttonous abandonment. Although not celebrated on the same day, both holidays are movable according to each religion’s liturgical calendar, they’re around the same time of year: late winter. I bring that up for a reason. By late winter people, in more colder climates than my native Florida, are understandably getting antsy from being cooped up at home, miserable from the cold. Both of these holidays become a socially-acceptable way to “let off steam” from the winter blues.
Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die. – Corinthians 15:32
Humans are humans the whole world over and religion is one of the ways we have grounded ourselves from time immemorial. We are meant to celebrate, come together as a community, and feast. Our ancestors, without modern conveniences, were very in tune with the environment and the change of seasons. They responded with feasting and fasting, ebbs and flows, that grounded us in religious mythology while also allowing for ever-changing celebratory expression.