Every Purim, my school hosts a huge Purim extravaganza. Weeks before the party, friend groups coordinate their matching costumes, teachers think of a creative theme for their costumes and the school is buzzing with excitement and anticipation for the big day.
“Only 15 more days until the annual Purim Party!”
“Only 10 more days! I cannot wait!”
“The Purim Party is just two days away! I am so excited that I will not be able to sleep for the next two days!”
One of the highlights is seeing the senior girls’ costumes. A tradition that has been in place for years, the senior girls start talking months before the party, trying to come up with the most creative costume. If that is not enticing enough, every year the senior girls dress up with the school’s principal, a woman admired by all of the students in the school, in the most elaborate costumes. When I was a freshman, the seniors were dalmatians and the principal was Cruella. When I was a sophomore, the seniors were racecar drivers and the principal was a little old lady who was observing the race. When I was a junior, the seniors were carrots and the principal was a monster coming to demolish the carrots. Each year, underclassmen wait in suspense for the senior girls and the principal to present their costume, which is usually followed by whispers of how surprised they are at the amount of hard work and creativity that must have gone into the costumes. This year, as one of those coveted senior girls, I cannot wait to show the underclassmen my costume and elicit the same reaction from them that I have given to the seniors in the past.
After the costumes are presented, boys from the school take turns reading chapters of the Megillah, the story of Esther and Mordechai. To keep with the excitement of Purim, whenever Haman’s name is mentioned, the crowd stomps their feet and shouts at the top of their lungs, signifying that Haman’s wickedness should not be overlooked. Sitting in the large auditorium, hearing the triumphant story of the Jews being saved from extinction, it is a unifying experience for everyone. Freshmen become best friends with the seniors, juniors become best friends with the sophomores. Everyone feels a sense of comradery with people whom they may have never uttered a single word. There is no way to describe the scene besides for “breath-taking.”
After the Megillah reading, the fun really begins. There is a huge feast for everyone in attendance, complete with gourmet pasta, pizza, salads, cookies, cakes and, of course, the triangular cookies filled with jam fondly known as hamantashen. After not eating for twelve hours, a custom among Jews in commemoration of Esther’s bravery in risking her life by approaching King Achashverosh when she was not summoned, there is nothing better than stuffing a hot, huge slice of pizza and a hamantashen full of raspberry jelly in your mouth. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!
After the feast, the dancing begins! People pile back into the auditorium, now with the chairs that were used for sitting during Megillah reading stacked against the sides of the room, and they get into a huge circle in the center of the room. The school band—which consists of a guitarist, drummer, pianist and singer—plays the most popular Jewish and secular songs as everyone starts dancing with glee. People do the horah, the macarena, cha-cha-slide and make up their own dance moves to their favorite songs. Nobody cares if they mess up the makeup that they spent hours doing hours earlier. Nobody cares if they are being judged for their awkward dance moves. Everyone just dances with pure glee, happy to be surrounded by their friends on one of the happiest nights of the Jewish year.
After the dancing ends all-too-soon, the real highlight of the extravaganza is ready to begin: the school’s annual Purim video. The Purim video, thought up and executed by the most talented and creative students, aims to mock the school through a variety of methods, including jokes and musical parodies. Popular topics of mockery have been the school’s handbook, teachers and fellow students (with their permission, of course). The students in charge of the video spend weeks brainstorming, filming and editing, making sure that the video satisfies their vision. At the official presentation of the video, there are tons of laughs and whispers as students and teachers alike marvel at the amount of time and effort that resulted in such a spectacular video. At the end of the presentation, the creators of the video are acknowledged and given well-deserved awards for all of their efforts.
At the conclusion of the video, the Purim Party is over. Everyone leaves slightly somber, knowing that one of the highlights of the year had just come to an end. But there is always next year’s Purim Party to look forward to—better start planning the most spectacular costume now!
Sarit Scher is a senior at Katz Yeshiva High School in Boca Raton, Fla.