A dinosaur, a lion, and several young princesses wearing pastel dresses traipsed through the gymnasium one recent Sunday at a local Jewish temple.
The costumed children took part in a whimsical carnival, part of Temple B'nai Israel's daylong celebration of the Jewish festival of Purim on Feb. 24.
Purim commemorates the Jews' victory over persecution, as chronicled in the Old Testament Book of Esther. The young Jewish peasant girl, Esther, became queen and revealed her Jewish heritage to her husband, King Ahasuerus, to stop the villainous Haman from killing all Jews.
By tradition, Purim is the most festive of Jewish holidays. It is typified by joyful parties, the wearing of costumes and masks and the eating of hamanstachen, pastries named after the Purim story's villain, Haman. The colorful masks worn during the holiday are often likened to masks worn at Mardi Gras or Halloween.
Rabbi Vered Harris said individuals and families, particularly those with young children, were invited to participate in the day's activities at the temple, 4901 N Pennsylvania. She said the holiday should be one filled with joy and festivities.
Children decorated colorful masks, played on inflatables and participated in carnival games throughout the temple's gymnasium. The festivities culminated with a parade outside, where young people hit a Haman-themed pinata with sticks until candy poured out.
A hamanstachen cook-off also was held to treat temple goers to the pastries filled with different flavors.
The temple ended the day with a reading of the Book of Esther, a traditional part of the holiday.