Historical Facts

Purim. A day snatched from busy lives, and devoted, whole-heartedly to sheer gladness and merry making—the day of Esther. Everyone masqueraded. Adults gave painful thought and time to the preparation of costumes, and the balls were really elegant. The robes worn were rich and often very original. And the children possessed the streets and invaded all the houses in the neighborhood, in such costumes as they could devise. Young folks 14, 15 or 16 used to burst into our home, dressed in bizarre garments and my mother always pretended to be surprised and scared, but never were the mountains of delicious Purim cookies missing. And I, a timid little thing, always hid behind my mother, charmed, admiring, interested and always a little afraid.

Jennie Gerstley, "Reminiscences, Chicago, Illinois, 1859-1934," American Jewish Archives

With the attention given to fund-raising Purim balls in the nineteenth century, it is no wonder that American Jewish and non-Jewish cookbooks include desserts for this holiday of joy and letting go. Purim celebrates the deliverance of the Jewish People from danger in the ancient Persian empire. During the reign of King Ahasuerus the Jewish queen Esther, the heroine of Purim, saved her people from a plot to destroy the Jews.

Purim Masquerade Ball
A Purim Masquerade Ball