Dozens of people, young and old, came together in Harford County over the weekend to celebrate Purim, a Jewish holiday based on the biblical Book of Esther.
At Temple Adas Shalom near Havre de Grace, children – and some adults – paraded in costumes, played games and rattled traditional graggers to drown out the name of Haman, the story's villain, as part of the book was read Sunday morning.
They also watched a Purim Spiel, a play with a creative take on the Esther story.
Harford Chabad, in Bel Air, hosted a Purimtini party Saturday night and a family fun day at Barnes & Noble on Sunday morning.
Purim, which ran from Saturday night through Sunday night, is a festive holiday that celebrates the Jews' deliverance from a plot to destroy them during the Persian Empire.
Besides costumes and general partying, the holiday includes reading the Book of Esther, which tells the story of the Hebrew queen of Persia upon which Purim is based, and giving gifts of food and charity.
"This is one of the biggest things they look forward to each year," Amy Szymanski, of Havre de Grace, said about her 6-year-old sons, Adam and Parker, and Purim.
Dressed as a king and Abraham Lincoln, Adam and Parker Szymanski were two of the attendees at Temple Adas Shalom on Sunday.
"They like dressing up," their mother said. "I guess it's a fun time to learn about the holiday."
The temple's Rabbi Gila Ruskin, who was dressed as a "flying pig," got children ready for a costume contest.
"Purim is a time when we act like someone other than ourselves," Ruskin reminded the young participants.
Patrick Drabinski, of Bel Air, brought 7-year-old Naomi and 9-year-old Rayna, with Naomi dressed as Tigger from "Winnie-the-Pooh."
"I think the story of Purim is the command to be told every year and the reading of the Megillah [scroll of Esther]. The choir does a wonderful job of acting it out," he said.
A few attendees took advantage of Purim's proximity to another party holiday, St. Patrick's Day, this year by dressing in green and shamrock-inspired gear.
Ora Cummings, of Street, said she wanted her children – 7-year-old Will and 9-year-old Claire – "to be able to experience the whole joy of the holiday and being Jewish."
"I love that it brings the community together. I love that they have the Purim Spiel and they bring the modern world [into it]," she said of the play, which was also inspired by "The Wizard of Oz" and "Wicked."
"Of course, the kids love the carnival, and the traditional food is always nice," Cummings added.
Kathy Winer-Lazarski, treasurer for the temple, said Adas Shalom has had a choir for the past several years, adding to the ongoing Purim events.
Up next: Passover
Purim also means the Jewish community will start preparing for Passover, which starts the night of April 14 and runs for a week.
Passover commemorates the Jews' escape from slavery in Egypt, as told in the biblical Exodus story.
Ruskin, at Adas Shalom, reminded the congregation to give money for Baltimore-area Jews who cannot afford food for Passover.
Winer-Lazarski noted the temple will again host a seder, or ritual meal, on the holiday's second night that is open to the public.
Harford Chabad is advertising a community seder on both the first and second night of Passover.