Purim Customs around the World
On Purim eve, torches containing gunpowder would be ignited.
During the Megillah reading, the gunpowder exploded with a
deafening noise. In one town in Germany, on the eve of Purim,
two candles would be lit in the synagogue. One was called "Haman"
and the other "Zeresh" (Haman's wife). The candles
were allowed to burn down completely, and were not extinguished.
Thus should the haters of Israel be burnt. Doll-shaped cakes,
called "Haman", were also prepared. The children would
cut off the doll's head and eat it with great glee.
The youngsters would divide into two camps and throw nuts at
each other. The adults rode through the streets of the town on
horseback, with cypress branches in their hands. They also
placed an effigy of Haman in a high place, and encircled it, to
the sound of trumpets.
Children used to take smooth stones, write or engrave Haman's
name on them, and strike them together during the Megillah
reading whenever Haman's name was mentioned, in order to erase
it, in compliance with the verse: "I shall surely wipe out
the memory of Amalek".
"Haman-shaped" cakes were baked on the eve of
"Shabbat Zakhor", and placed on the window ledges
until the festive Purim meal. During the meal, the cakes were
sliced so that participants could fulfill the precept "And
they shall devour Haman with open mouth".
Many wax candles were lit for the Purim meal; children were
invited to light the candles as on Hanukkah.
The young men rode through the Jewish street on horsebacks,
camels and asses, in memory of the verse "and they brought
him on horseback through the street of the city".
The children prepared a large effigy of Haman, and filled its
clothes with gunpowder. In the middle of the courtyard, they set
up a large stick, from which they "hung" Haman. They
then threw oil over the effigy and set it alight.
The men also participated in the great tumult, stamping their
feet loudly during the Megillah reading.
All the schoolchildren participated in burning an effigy of
Haman. The younger children made small "Hamans" out of
paper, and the older children made a large "Haman" out
of rags, old clothes and straw. All the townspeople gathered by
the school. A large bonfire was prepared and everyone stood
round it. By turn, all the children went up and threw the "Hamans"
they had made into the fire. They then beat the burning "Haman"
with special sticks that they had prepared in honor of Purim.
After all the "Hamans" had been thrown on the fire,
salt and sulfur were added. All the participants stood round the
fire, hitting the burning Haman with sticks and shouting
"Long live Mordechai, cursed be Haman, blessed be Esther,
cursed be Zeresh".
The youngsters threw an effigy of Haman into the fire and
jumped over the fire, competing to see who could jump highest.
The ground would usually be covered with snow at Purim time.
A large snow-Haman was built next to the synagogue. This Haman
had a funny-shaped torso, long thick legs, like an elephant's, a
large head, eyes of charcoal, a carrot for a nose, and a piece
of beetroot for the mouth. A "gold chain" made out of
water melon peels was hung over the stomach as a symbol of
office, and a broken pot was placed on the head.
After the meal, the whole community gathered round the Haman.
A large fire was made around it of wood, rags and paper, and
they stood and watched until Haman melted in the heat and
disappeared, singing until it was completely melted.
The women prepared blackened wood by the kitchen fire. When
the men came home after the Megillah reading, they would ask,
what's this, and the women would reply: Haman. The men then
said: "burn him", and the wood was immediately thrown
into the fire.
The children drew pictures of Haman on planks or cardboard.
During the Megillah reading, the planks were thrown to the
ground and trampled on, making a lot of noise. Wooden gloves (a
kind of wooden sandals) were held in the hands and clapped
together, also making a loud noise.
The synagogue carpets were taken up and the congregants
trampled underneath them, in case Haman was hiding there.
Even before Purim, the children of the "Heder"
would set up two sticks "lengthwise and crosswise",
like a kind of cross, cover them and declare in a loud voice:
"Haman the wicked." This is the source of the Yemenite
Jewish saying: "In Adar - we put up Haman crosses".
In the Yemenite town of Asaddeh, it was customary to make a
large effigy of Haman out of rags. This Haman was placed on a
donkey and led by the children from house to house. Each
householder gave the children sweetmeats, and beat, spat or even
threw dirty water over the Haman on the donkey.
In some places in Yemen, the children used to put a kind of
scarecrow in a wooden cart with a horse. Two beads were stuck
into its head for eyes, a beard was attached, and it was dressed
in colorful tattered clothes, and adorned with a kind of absurd
decoration. The children placed the scarecrow on a wooden horse
and preceded it, calling out: "thus shall be done to the
On the eve of Purim, they dragged the cart through the
streets shouting: "Haman", and dancing and singing:
Here comes Haman Riding a lame horse He burst and exploded, woe
to his mother, Here she comes.
The "Haman" was then hung from a high tree in the
courtyard of the synagogue, where it was "abused" and
taunted. Stones and "arrows" were hurled at it until
it was torn to shreds. In some places Haman's cross was left
until the end of Purim, and then taken down and burnt. It was
covered with kerosene and set alight. The participants departed
only when nothing was left but dust and ashes.