Purim, in contrast to a lot of the other Chagim is meant to be relatively cheap… by cheap I mean you don’t have the following conversation with your spouse, “Its coming up to Pesach/Rosh Hashana/Sukkot…. its time to a. re-mortgage, b. get a new credit card or c. sell all our non existent silver”.
Sadly though it has become pretty much the same expense as any other Chag. Even without buying costumes, costumes which need to get more creative, outstanding, better then anyone else in the community. When I was young, my mother would create from any material brilliant costumes, we all had a theme and we enjoyed wearing them. Now, my mother obviously knew, unlike most people my age and younger what to do with a needle and thread, darning socks was actually still a thing then! Now though I have heard of people ordering Sari’s from India, Chinese gowns from china, American footballer costumes… yes you have guessed it from America. In fact I am sure that some people hop over to the country in question for a day to ensure their kinderlach get the best costume in town.
Reading a thread about Mishloach Manot ( from now on to be called MM) ideas, I was amazed how creative people can get, coming up with themes that were out of this world, to fit any kind of costume. Cholent themed MM with beans, rocket launcher sweets and heartburn pills was one of my favourites. As is the old favourite of pop corn in red and white buckets for Where’s Wally costumes ( which we are doing this year…but shhhh don’t tell) Breakfast themes etc. Happily going through the thread, OOO’ing and UHHHH’ing in delight at the ideas, I came across a very judgy, holier than thou post, telling us all how we are a disgrace to be using money to make such a worthless idea as giving MM a big deal, how our brothers and sisters in Israel struggle to make ends meet, how instead of giving MM we should be sending money to our children as a down payment on a flat, ( ok lets get real, even if a person spends an extraordinary amount, lets say £500 on MM… really a down payment??) how we should be giving all the money spent to Tzedokah, and on and on.
My first reaction was one of amusement, my second was bewilderment. the replies to this lady were from anger, to hysteria. Everyone proclaiming that it was their choice how much to spend, that yes they gave the amount and more of the cost of what they had spent on their MM to charity, and so on.
My brother in law’s dream is for everyone to go back to the “good old days” where MM consisted of ( you know what I am going to say before I say it) a paper plate with a carton of juice and a tangerine on it. Thankfully, for his wife and children sake (oh the embarrassment )he does not follow through on his dream MM.
There are many women who create beautiful MM and love doing it, going to stores such as homesense, or thrift stores, their imaginations running wild, the joy their children experience when filling up the amazing jars, ( its got to be a matter of one sweet for the jar one for you) makes this Chag even more special than it already is for our kids.
As a parent Purim can become the worst, most stressful day, thank G-d we are allowed to drink away the stress on this day, I think that the whole idea of Misha Nichas Adar Besimcha, which means the month of Adar should be celebrated with joy, is really just another way of saying ” you will be stressed today… go ahead DRINK!” driving takes on a whole new reality, getting from my home across the street can take the most part of a day, navigating between the swarms of children thrusting buckets in my face, screaming at me ( even though I am literally a cm away from them) why, that last penny, that last crumpled up charity voucher, should be their’s is something every Jew in every Jewish community will experience on Purim.
Driving down the road, without the engine on, there is no point as I am not getting anywhere at any pace, my daughter screams in delight (or sometimes terror) each time she sees a minion, monkey, bunny, fairy, dancer, police officer, arab, indian, nun, pope, mr men costume, where’s wally, cowboy, cowgirl, fireman, (you get the idea) whilst we sit drumming the wheel, fixed/manic smiles on our faces, while looking at the list, seeing that we still have to get to her best friend of the day the other side of town, and taking yet another swig of that alcohol that YES we are actually allowed to drink that day (passengers only of course!)
My thoughts and sympathies go out to any clueless person who happens to be driving through a Jewish area on Purim, my advice to you is…. DONT, and if you do my prayers are with you friend.
All in all Purim is not the inexpensive, stress free day we remember from our childhood. The issue with overdoing MM is a huge one, no I do not agree with sending MM which cost £100 each, or even £50 or even £20 each, I do not think sending someone a showcase of whisky as picture above is Tzniut, I believe MM can be beautiful, and the education we give to our children should be about giving those who need, those who may not get from anyone else, those who will be happy, even with the tangerine on a paper plate ( though your children may disown you).
If a person wishes to express gratitude to someone and chooses Purim to send a nice gift, go ahead, but the gift should be done with thought of how it comes across to others, is it to show off or have you thought about what that person would feel happy to receive?
We are meant to give Tzedokah on the day of Purim, so maybe we can match what we spend on our MM?
I spoke to a friend in Israel last night who mentioned that each of her children only give one MM each to their friends, I admire and respect the education she is giving her children, and was ashamed to say that after a lot ( I’m talking calling in the mediators and lawyers ) of negotiating with my daughter we have settled on 13 ( but just to make myself feel better that does include to many cousins and neighbours to count ).
As I think about Purim, I realise that for adults the day can be stressful, the forced happiness, the noise etc, but then as I think back to my Purim memories of my fathers students filling up the house, the noise and happiness it reminds me that for children Purim is a day they will always treasure.
So enjoy, have fun …. most of all be safe!