Is Purim akin to a Jewish Halloween?

Answered by
Rabbi Victor S. Appell

Though both Purim and Halloween share the custom of dressing in costume, that is about all the two holidays have in common. Halloween is thought to have originated as a Celtic festival and later became a Christian holiday. Dressing in costume on Halloween probably dates back to the 16th century. The tradition of wearing costumes on Purim finds its origins in the Purim spiel, or play, which is a skit, often humorous, based on the Purim story. While at one time people dressed only as the characters in the story, today people also select costumes based on characters from children’s stories and popular culture.

The story of Purim, from the Book of Esther, tells about how Queen Esther and her cousin Mordechai save the Jews of Persia from Haman, the king’s evil prime minister. Purim is celebrated by public readings of the Purim story, dressing in costume, giving gifts of food to friends and neighbors, and attending Purim carnivals with games.