Purim: The Festival of Lights

Karaites celebrating Purim in March 1987Source: Mourad El-Kodsi, Karaite Jews of Egypt (p. 307)

Karaites celebrating Purim in March 1987
Source: Mourad El-Kodsi, Karaite Jews of Egypt (p. 307)

Last week, I received an invitation to the Karaite Jews of America’s annual Purim Party. Karaites, at least those of Egyptian descent, have some unique Purim customs.

Candles: Karaites have traditionally viewed Purim as a festival of lights, during which they light candles in their synagogues. This is rooted in the Book of Esther, which explains that after the Jews were saved from an evil decree they had “light and gladness and joy and honor.” (An Introduction to Karaite Judaism; see Esther 8:16.) And according to Mourad El-Kodsi’s Karaite Jews of Egypt, Karaites used to “make a good profit during Purim” by selling fireworks. (First Ed.; p. 19.)

FoodAs for Purim-related foods, Karaites in Egypt had two types of dessert: “wedan Haman” (English: Haman’s ears, “which are very thin and light cookies shaped liked big ears”) and “bughashah” (a rectangular strudel filled with cream). (First Ed., p.152.) I don’t think I’ve ever seen this strudel dish, but it sounds amazing.

Games: In Egypt, both Karaites and Rabbanites celebrated Purim with a “wide variety of legal and illegal entertainment, most of which consisted of gambling games.” (Id.) Children of both communities spent Erev Purim in the Jewish Quarter of Cairo. (Id.)

Engagements: For Karaites in Egypt, “Purim was by tradition among the favorite holidays when engagements were announced.” (Id. at 153.)

If you’d like to attend this year’s KJA Purim Party in Daly City, CA on February 24, 2013, please email me at Shawn@abluethread.com. And you can view pictures from the 2011 Purim party at the KJA’s website.

1 Comment

Filed under Books, Holidays, Purim

One Response to Purim: The Festival of Lights

  1. I love a good game of blackjack on Purim!

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