How to drink like a Jew on Purim

The slightly irreverent, mostly drunken story of a Jewish holiday wherein everyone is instructed to get drunk to celebrate feminism and survival…also cookies shaped like hats

Few religious requirements elicit such joy as: “A person is obligated to drink on Purim until he does not know the difference between “cursed be Haman” and “blessed be Mordechai.”

Last Wednesday, I attended a Jewish celebration at Temple Sinai in Reno, where the congregation told the story of Purim with a hilarious interpretive combination of bible stories and Downton Abbey. What is Purim? With the help of my Jewish wife, I bring you the story of Purim.


Story time with Rabbi Ethan Bair! Photos by Mike Higdon

In short: Go have a bender, we didn’t get annihilated. Also, feminism. Let’s celebrate strong-willed women by getting super hella drunk.

King Achashverosh (Ahasuerus… AH-(clear your throat)-khash-VARE-rōsh) kills his first wife, Queen Vashti, for not getting naked at one of his big parties when instructed. Which, btw, go Vashti, because that’s kind of a douchey request.

So then the King is like, “dude, I need me a new wife.” So he commands all the virgins in the land to hang out at the castle and perform a beauty pageant while he chooses his new wife. He picks Esther, because she’s super pretty, so she becomes the new queen. But, she doesn’t tell him she’s Jewish — the plot thickens.

Meanwhile, his chief advisor Haman (HAY-men) is appointed prime minister of the kingdom and is also an anti-semitic dick. Haman also hates Esther’s cousin Mordechai (MORTA-(clear your throat)-khī), the leader of the Jews because Mordechai doesn’t bow to Haman — or really any mortal because Jews only bow to God.


The evil Haman (played by Allan Cohen) seen here corrupting the youth. Photo by Mike Higdon

Oh yeah, it’s important to note that Haman wears a triangle hat, which later inspired delicious fruit filled triangular cookies called Hamantaschen (see what they did there with the root word?). This detail probably would’ve never made it into the history books if it weren’t for these awesome cookies.


Fruit filled evil! Linked from Jewish Women International

Anyway. Haman hates Mordechai and goes to the King and shit talks all the Jews. He wants to have a lottery and pick a random day to kill them all. Because that’s pretty much the story of the Jews and pretty much why every holiday exists: “They tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat.” Except occasionally it’s “let’s quietly reflect and then eat.”

So of course, Esther is not super thrilled about all of her family, friends and even people she’s not fond of but are also Jews, getting killed. She needs to convince the king to spare everyone’s lives. So naturally, she goes to dinner with him and wears something really pretty and he falls even more in love with her.

Esther eventually tells him she’s Jewish and he’s like “But I love you” and she’s like, “But Haman wants to kill me and my people.” So the King is like “I’m going to hang you Haman, take that!” And Mordechai becomes the King’s chief advisor and a new decree is issued, granting Jews the right to defend themselves against their enemies (which obviously has no lasting historical effects…at all…whatsoever…). So on the original day Haman planned to kill all the Jews, the Jews instead kill all their enemies…damn that’s dark. On the following day, naturally, they rest.

And I guess everyone lives happily ever after and gets super drunk and drinks cookies. You know until like every other point in history where some crazy guy decides to kill all the Jews…this seems to come up a lot…

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Mike Higdon

Editor & Publisher at Drinkable Reno
Mike Higdon is a journalist passionate about beer and cocktails. He started the site because no one else covered Reno's growing craft scene at the level of detail required to stay in the know about all things drinkable in Reno.