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February 14, 2008

Happy Purim? Or is it Valentines Day?

Did you know that Purim and Valentines Day may have a historical connection?

It could very well be, as…

Uzi Silber notes in today's Ha'aretz:

Actually, Valentines might have been a Christianized version of Lupercalia, an ancient post-winter-early-spring Roman fertility and purification festival that was observed on February 15th in which boys slapped women with bloody goat's hides.
The amorously-charged Carnivale celebrations and its American variant known as Mardi Gras also take place at this time. And Purim, which also may have originated as a Persian winter's-end festival, falls around now on non-leap years.

If Purim really is a "Judaized" version of a pagan Persian festival celebrating the end of the worst parts of winter and the beginning of what will soon be spring, and  if Valentines Day originated as a  "Christianization" of Lupercalia, itself a Romanized version of ancient Near Eastern end of winter festivals, then Valentines Day and Purim – and for that matter, Purim and Mardi Gras – are really the same thing.

So exploit this connection in a very Jewish way for your own benefit.

Tomorrow, after Valentines Day is over, much of that unsold Valentines Day candy will go on sale, often at 1/2 off retail. Much of this candy is kosher. Buy a ton. Hold it for Purim. Send it out as part of you meshalach manot packages. To cover yourself, add a note to the packages explaining the historical connection. (If you think that won't fly, include a note saying you gave some of the money you saved to tzedaka.)

Don't try this in haredi neighborhoods. They won't like it and they won't eat the candy anyway – it isn't cholov yisroel.


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you're a genius shmarya

Finaly some good humor for today, thanks!

Purim falls on Good Friday this year.
I think i may dress up as the Easter Bunny.

> in which boys slapped women with bloody goat's hides.

Boy them ancient Romans sure knew how to have themselves a good time, eh? I can't imagine how their empire fell.

> then Valentines Day and Purim – and for that matter, Purim and Mardi Gras – are really the same thing.

Too much of a jump. I would assume most cultures around the world would have a spring festival, although I still think the goats' hide thing is a hoot. Just because Valentines and Purim happen around the same time is not a reason to connect them.

Really, the connection is Halloween and Purim. After all, when do price-conscious Jewish mothers go out and buy 1/2 price candy AND costumes? November 1, that's when.

No Real Jewish Woman wants her man buying candy that costs retail for her today. Real Jewish Women want it at half price tomorrow: Shushan Valentines Day.

"Purim falls on Good Friday this year.
I think i may dress up as the Easter Bunny"

Why not combine the two and dress up as the "Esther Bunny"

What next for Shmarya, the Megillat Esther is a forgery?

What next for Shmarya, the Megillat Esther is a forgery?

It's not a forgery, but it is not history, either.

I always buy Christian-holiday candy that is kosher after their holidays. I am a cheap Jew (LOL).

--Why not combine the two and dress up as the "Esther Bunny"--

Playboy Enterprises may have some cool costumes for that.

--It's not a forgery, but it is not history, either.--

Who wrote it? When was it written? What parts are and which parts are not historical? Don't forget to include proof and citations.

Cosmic inversion festivals such as Purim, Holi, and Lupercalia are typical this time a year... their more recent adaptations are Mardi Gras, Carnivale, Valentine's Day, and April Fools Day. It is a comsic inversion because on days like Mardi Gras or Purim, the world is turned on its head: fool kings preside, the innocent are presumed guilty, people wear masks to hide their true identity, and the rules for what is normally accepted are considerably relaxed.

The connection between all of these ancient holdiays is that they take place just before the ancient new years festival at the end of the winter season when food stores were running low and a community pooling of remaining food was high. Whether its a lagniappe or a matanot laevyonim, folks would get festive in celebrating their survival of the winter. Combine this with the ancient practice of adding leap months or leap days to the calendar to ensure that the solar/lunar calendar remained in sync and you have extra days which are outside the norm, and ripe for symbolizing as silly but with a strong dose of danger...

Here in Louisiana the parallels between Mardi Gras and Purim are pretty obvious, but I understand how it would be less so in regions where parallel holidays are pretty much Hallmark Card holidays. The narrative of the Mardi Gras festival is that on mardi gras a fool king presides for the day, young men are deputized to gather food, and then the food is redistrubed in a communal feast. (The familiar mardi gras beads are a surrogate for the food gathered by the appointed food gatherers, or those wealthy enough to share their winter surplus.)

Add to this the wonderful symbolism of the lunar eclipse, the moon literally hiding its face and wearing its own mask. Did you see this last year? It's happening again on Purim this year.

Hey, Ahron! Great comment!

Wouldn't it be great to make a Purim parade in New Orleans patterned after Mardi Gras? Have jazz and klezmer bands, throw meshaloch manot from the floats and tie it in with a Jazz and Klezmer festival?

Try to get Jews from all over to come.

It would give the N.O. economy a much-needed boost and would lift the spirits of many New Orleans residents.

There is a little parade every year on Purim eve that the Tulane Chabad does with the Klezmer All Stars Band. It is pretty small all things considered but it is quite enjoyable. I'd love to see this expanded. NOLA has one of the best klezmer bands in the world: the Zydepunks (two accordions, bass, fiddle and drums). They danced me to exhaustion this Rosh Chodesh Adar. Lead singer, Juan Christian Küffner, is also excited about Ladino music. Check them out: http://www.zydepunks.com

Also, I'd love to see a Purim parade at a klezmer festival in NOLA -- on Purim, too!

That's what I mean. But make it a joint Klezmer-Jazz festival and have a parade with klezmer and jazz marching bands and floats representing Jewish communities from all of the US and the world – a kind of We love You New Orleans display, so to speak.

And it should not be primarily Orthodox, either.

Wait, you mean everytime they say Haman the women lift their tops and get beads????

( Ok Jewish women , must be pearls .)


The Purim Persian connection sounds feasible, since the events of the story take place in Iran, and the old Persian new year -Nawroz -falls about this time of the year. (Still celebrated by Iranans, Kurds, Afghans though it is pre-Islamic, and the no-fun-damentalists don't approve. A Muslim friend told me "They don't like it, but they won't stop my mother celebrating"). Come to think of it, though Rosh Hashonah is in Autumn, doesn't the Jewish year start in Spring?
Regarding Valentine, you may be right, but let's not be coy it is ST.Valentine's Day.
Most festivals have a background in the natural seasons which governed people's lives. Pesach, chag ha'aviv, probably has some Egyptian roots linked to the Nile and rebirth (a theme coming out again in Easter), but also linked with lambing time for the Hebrew shepherds.

I am always fascinated by these parallels. I really think rituals speak to something very deep within the human psyche. That is why atheism will never ultimately succeed, in my opinion. No holidays!

Wasn't there a group called Hebrew Sons of Erin which held a Purim Queen parade in New York, just coincidentally close to St.Patrick's Day?

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