W ith the festival of Purim starting tonight, it’s worth analyzing what sort of a role it plays within the landscape of the holidays and rituals of modern secular society. In other words, does Purim put Halloween to shame, or are we a shande far di goyim when it comes to revelry?
Heroes: Does Halloween even have a hero? Who? Jack-O-Lantern? A headless horseman? A seedless pumpkin? There’s really no one to truly call a role model for the kids. On the other hand, with Purim you’ve got two great heroes – Esther, a frickin’ Queen (and to get chosen as a Jew in that Iranian court – can you say Oh My Dinejad?) and someone who risks her life for her people (including fasting – I mean, we’re talking serious sacrifice here), and of course Uncle Morty. Sure, he didn’t go up to old Achashverosh himself, but this guy was like a medieval Mossad with picking up that intel like that. This is a clear two-headed no-brainer vs. a guy without even a head and certainly no yiddishn kop.
Costumes: Halloween is easy because you can always rely on Shopper’s or Pharmaprix, and entire stores literally open up weeks before to get people dressed up. (Of course, when UNICEF asks for clothes for actual needy people, no one’s giving, but hey, who are we to judge?) Purim requires a bit more resourcefulness – somebody’s got some pipe cleaners here and there, Zaide’s got an old shmatte, Bubbie has an old tiara, and boom, you’re Kim Kardashian, or Vashti. Or both! (Cotton balls also make for cheap beards, for you Mordechai wannabes.)
Winner: Halloween for options. Purim for resourcefulness.
Haunted Houses: The only thing we have that’s close is Hillel House. Meanwhile, the goyim are working on their houses for up to one week turning them into quasi-cemeteries. Whoever is asking how it is that the Jews have gotten ahead should really be asking how can non-Jews recapture their lost productivity on that one week of mindless faux-cemetery construction for the enjoyment of strangers, children and strange children?
Winner: Halloween. Real Winner: The Jews.
Horror movies: There isn’t a Purim horror movie yet, though by all means there should be, with such juicy potential names as They Came from Shushan, He Who Shall Not Be Named and – why not – Nightmare on Chelm Street.
Food: Look, the average person will tell you that Halloween is superior, what with the Tootsie Rolls, the unlimited mini chocolate bars, yada yada yada. But let us say this about that: first, the risk of a razor blade in a hamentash is surprisingly low (generally our enemies enjoy holding the blades when wielding them against us – the whole remote blade thing is very inauthentic to them). Second, if you’re into opiates, Purim absolutely destroys on this front, providing just enough poppy to make you fail a drug test, but not enough to overdose. Third, if you ate nothing but hamentashen, you would get fat off of food made with love. If you ate nothing but Halloween candy, you would get fat off of food made with partially hydrogenated olive oil. And to the best of our knowledge, the Beatles didn’t sing the classic All You Need is Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil.
Alcohol: In absolute terms, yes, there is literally more alcohol flowing on Halloween than there is on Purim. But on a per kop-ita basis (i.e. how much alcohol is in a Jewish head), there is way more shikur/kop on Purim. After all, the rabbis mandate that you have to drink until you don’t know right from wrong, or if you’re in Toronto, Wright from Yonge. Hey, we may not follow our rabbis on anything, but on this particular mitzvah, we will solemnly oblige.
So there you have it. While Halloween may be good for those interested in a Hallows Evening of ghouls, ghosts and child obesity, we’re perfectly happy celebrating dodging real horrors, like, we dunno, state-mandated genocide. L’chaim, to life – literally!