By Alyce-Kay Hanush
Purim is Saturday evening, March 15, through Sunday evening, March 16 this year. So what is Purim, you ask? Purim is the celebration begun at the end of the story of Esther in the Bible — the time that God preserved His people through a brave, young Jewish queen. There are some wonderful lines in the book of Esther, such as “for such a time as this” and “if I perish, I perish.”
In Jewish families, this is a fun celebration. You get to dress up as the various characters in the story. You get to put on plays. (And you get drunk, but I’m not advocating that.) To learn more about the story of Esther, the traditional celebration of Purim, and enjoy some fun Purim songs, you can go to the playlist I’ve put together for my grandkids.
How can we as Christian families (and I’m thinking mainly of families with elementary and younger children) make good use of this celebration? Well, most obvious is the fact that we can use it to get to know an important story in the Bible. But i think we can go much deeper than that. Here are some of my ideas to get you started. I would love it if you’d add your own ideas in the comment box — and feel free to include links to coloring pages or other goodies you find online.
TIP: You can use this list for pretty much any story in the Bible.
1. OF COURSE, read the book of Esther as a family. You should definitely read it from the Bible, and you can probably find some books at the library, online, etc. If you own a set of flannel graphs, I think this is a great way to learn Bible stories. You can do the story each day, then have the kids move the pieces while you tell the story again, then have the kids tell the story and move the pieces. We modern day families tend to look askance at flannel graph, but I’ve never found a child who doesn’t love it. (I have a set of Betty Lukens flannel graphs — everything you need for the entire Bible, along with a book that has all the stories and tells you which pieces to use. And the flannels are lovely and vivid. You do have to cut out the pieces, though — I hired someone to do it for me.) http://www.amazon.com/Large-Deluxe-Bible-English-Flannelboard/dp/B000TMKE6E/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1393199685&sr=8-3&keywords=betty+lukens
2. One of the things that I love about internet is that you can print your own coloring pages. There are lots of sources for these. You can keep these loose, or take them to your local FedEx shop or other print shop to have them bound into a coloring book for your kids. My daughter, Sam, who has 4 young children, especially likes this site for Jewish story coloring pages: http://www.chabad.org/kids/article_cdo/aid/361573/jewish/Coloring-Crafts.htm
3. Look for the character qualities in the story of Esther — both good and bad. (Examples of good qualities: Faith, courage. Examples of bad qualities: Envy, lying.) You could take one each day and talk about them. Here is a process you could use to talk to children about these qualities, starting with the good ones. (Parents: You don’t have to do all of these!)
a. Explain the quality to them.
b. Show how it’s illustrated in the book of Esther.
c. Give some examples from your own life or someone the kids know to illustrate the quality.
d. Look for other stories in the bible that demonstrate the quality.
e. Ask your librarian to help you find story books that demonstrate the quality.
f. Ask your kids what they think the benefits were to the story’s characters of having these qualities.
g. What would the benefits be to them (your children), if they developed these (good) qualities in their own lives? How could they do that? Be sure to reinforce that we need God’s help with these things. We can pray and ask Him to help us have the kind of faith Esther had, for instance.
h. As you see your kids exhibiting these qualities — even just a little — be sure to praise them for it. Ask them what motivated them to do that? How did it make them feel? How would they feel if they could keep doing that? What do they think God thinks about them doing that? Questions like these will help to reinforce those qualities and the desire to grow.
i. Look at some of the bad qualities. Talk about those, too. Help them to recognize those qualities in Bible characters and in other stories.
j. Talk through what would motivate someone to have those negative qualities. What should your children’s response be to someone with those qualities?
k. Ask what the signs would be that they might recognize in themselves so they can guard against developing the bad qualities.
l. Come up with your own stories about each of the qualities. I used to have my children dictate their stories to me — try to type them exactly as they say them. Don’t worry about story telling skills (unless you’ve been specifically working on that). Make sure that you include the author after each story. You can type them up and then print them out and take them to your local print shop to bind into a family book of Purim stories. (It generally costs a buck or two to bind pages into a book form.) You might include a smattering of their coloring pages, too. You might want to print out a copy for your family to enjoy now, a copy for each of your children which you’ll hide away and give to them when they start having kids, a copy for grandparents. Each book would be uniquely adorned with different coloring pages the kids have done. Talk about precious memories!
4. After you’ve told your kids the story of Esther a few times, they’ll probably be ready to act it out. Here’s where your costumes come in. (See instructions below for super easy Bible character costumes.) You can let them choose parts or take turns doing various parts. Try to come up with someone they can put on a play for … this will motivate them to practice a few times … reinforcing the story and its values in their lives.
5. Learn about Persia, where the story of Esther takes place. What country is this now? Find it on a map. Look for pictures online. What’s the weather like? Talk about what it would be like to live there. Can you find any information about King Xerxes? What kinds of foods do they eat there? Maybe you could include those in your Purim celebration.
6. Have 3 nights of banquets (maybe with Persian food? but any nice food is fine). Is there some big news that you can promise to share, but keep putting off, to build the anticipation in your children, like Esther did with the King?
7. The movie, One Night with the King, is absolutely excellent. You’ll find it in my playlist, but I’ve included the trailer below. This is the perfect time of year to watch it! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1f1Pi1DHP4
8. I would love it if you’d share your Purim ideas and resources below, in the comment box, or on my facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/ToolsForGodlyLiving?ref=hl If you share on facebook, I’d love to see pictures of your activities and celebration! 🙂
Super easy Bible character costume: Use my fancy-pancy drawing below as a guide.
- Measure your child from shoulders to the floor.
- Get double that amount of fabric. (For example, if they’re 36 inches from shoulders to floor, you’ll need 2 yards.)
- It’s a good idea to wash the fabric before sewing, just in case it will shrink.
- Fold the fabric in half, crosswise. In other words, both cut ends of the fabric will be at the bottom, the fold at the top, and the factory finished edges on the sides.
- On each side, measure about 14 inches from the top fold, then cut inward about 10 inches. Do this on each side.
- Cut straight down from there to the bottom. This will create kind of a sleeve. Pin these together and sew about 1/2 inch from the edge.
- At the top, cut out a neck hole. Be careful not to make this too big. It’s always best to start small, try it on, and make the hole bigger if need be.
- If you’re not much for sewing, this is all you need to do. Turn it right side out and voila! You have your Bible character costume. If you like to sew, you can do the following steps (9-13) to make your costumes a little nicer and last longer.
- Finish the neckline with bias tape, or hem it, or use a fancy edging.
- Hem the sleeve holes. Add fancy edging, if you want.
- Hem the bottom. You can add fancy edging here, too.
- Clip the underarm curves so they’ll lay flatter.
- Seam finish the inner seams.
- Accessorize with rope belts, head gear, etc., as appropriate.
Newly released! Next Year In New Jerusalem, a Passover haggadah for Christians. Complete instructions for a Christian celebration of Passover. Scripted ceremony includes fulfillment of Passover prophecies through Christ, footwashing, and the Lord’s Supper in the Passover context. Over 150 Bible references provide an easy guide for optional in-depth study. Pronunciation and glossary included. The full ceremony takes about 3 hours, including dinner. It’s designed to be enjoyed by all ages. I hope that this will enrich your appreciation of Jesus’ sacrifice for us, and that you’ll find yourself worshiping Him as you long to celebrate Passover next year with Him … in the New Jerusalem.