Purim in Romania

Jews in Romania have adapted to Purim quite well and have many novel ways of celebrating it. I could see a lot of innovation in the hymns meant for public service. Plays, dramas, and broad-ranging satires have existed since the 18th century in Romania. Yiddish theater has often used the story of Esther along with other stories to stage plays. Satire has been quite commonly used outside the synagogue, where it was not allowed.

Social customs have evolved keeping in mind the age-old custom of reading from the Book of Esther twice during Purim. It is read like a letter in one stretch, which is a real sight to watch in the synagogue. Children and adults are thus attracted to the synagogue, as the reading of the letters of Esther has been made into an art form. Besides this, Romanians have developed several ways of making noise during the reading, gifting, and other festivities.

Custom of Masquerading Adds Color to the Festivities

A noisy but enjoyable custom is the custom of masquerading done as in a carnival. This was first introduced to the Romanians by the Italian Jews around the fifteenth century similar to what was done at the Roman carnivals. It was recorded by Judah Minz. He was the first one to voice his opinion about the custom. He felt that because masquerading involved only merrymaking, and Biblical laws were not being broken in any way regarding the dress code. It became so popular that people from around the world joined in. It is still celebrated with great vigor and joy in Romania. We see men, women, and children wearing different costumes and masks seeking different ways to entertain themselves.

Making as Much Noise as Possible

In Romania, Jews have been making rattles that subdue the name of Haman whenever it is mentioned during the recitation of the megile. The purpose has been to remove the name of Amalek from memory, as he was the one who was to succeed Haman. It is a great sight where a grager or noisemaker was used to generate as much noise as possible. Children used gragers made of metal, nails, and powders that exploded with a lot of sound. A more conservative approach was adapted by the adults who preferred to shuffle their feet when they heard the name of Haman.

The Joy of Gifting is very evident

It has been prescribed that exchange of gifts should take place during Purim. Romanian Jews have been making homemade baked food items, fish, and cooked meat and distributing and exchanging them with friends and even non Jews. These delicacies have usually been reserved for the Rabbis and are given in plates covered with embroidered cloth.

The feeling of service is extended to students who receive small sums of money to distribute them. Sometimes, religious books are distributed, and customs seen during weddings are also performed. Festive food includes three-cornered pastries and triangular meat dumplings served in soup. Entertainment is also part of visits made to houses where performers sing, dance, and perform short plays to bring in the festivities.

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