Tonight, March 20th, at sunset begins the Jewish holiday of Purim which continues through tomorrow evening March 21st at sunset.
Purim is the Jewish holiday of Purim which commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people in the ancient Persian Empire from destruction in the wake of a plot by Haman – a story recorded in the Biblical Book of Esther.
According to the Book of Esther, Haman, royal vizier to King Ahasuerus planned to kill the Jews, but his plans were foiled by Mordecai and Queen Esther. The day of deliverance became a day of feasting and rejoicing.
Purim is characterized by public recitation, usually in synagogue, of the Book of Esther (known as k’riat megillah). In addition to this there are additions to the regularly said prayers and the grace after meals, the giving of mutual gifts of food and drink, giving charity to the poor, and a celebratory meal. Other customs include drinking wine, wearing of masks and costumes, and public celebration.
Like Hanukkah, Purim has more of a national than a religious character, and its status as a holiday is on a lesser level than those days ordained holy by the Torah. Accordingly, business transactions and even manual labor are allowed on Purim.