FOr each and every holiday there are two categories of things that happen. Those that are tradition, and those that are commandments. When we think about Purim we usually think of hearing the book of Esther read, dressing up in costume, and going to a carnival. However, there are four mitzvot of Purim, and none of them involve dressing up.
1. READ the megillah. Technically speaking everyone is supposed to read the megillah. Both men and women are obligated. Typically we 'read' the megillah by hearing it read by someone else. This works, so long as the person reading it to you is obligated to fulfill the commandment themselves. In our house, technically speaking, Mommy needs to read the story, not Daddy. You also need to hear every word. It's not a long story, but no pee breaks are allowed. This also means that though the event is typically filled with cheers and jeers, you still need to hear...
2. The Festive Meal. This is typically where the carnvial comes from. We are commanded to have a festive meal, a Seudat Purim. We are supposed to be joyous, wear festive clothing and have a celebration. Many people also say the costumes represent the fact that Esther hid her true self (her Jewish identity) from the King.
3. Sending Food to Friends. Technically this is called Mishloach Manot (and I've got LOTS of easy tips for making yours memorable tomorrow), and is supposed to be sent to friends and neighbors. It must consist of at least two 'portions' or things that the reciever doesn't have to prepare and can eat immediately, so no adorable jars full of DIY brownie mix. It must be food or drink, no clothing or books allowed. This is where Hamentaschen come into play.
4. Giving to the Poor. This is something we should do all the time, but there is a specific obligation to give on Purim. It says that we should extend ourselves a bit, give at least two gifts to at least two people (aka one to each). We don't really talk about this one all that much, and I certainly can't remember it being a part of my childhood Purim experiences. I can't quite figure out how to help EG do this one. She does like to give to charity- so I let her donate any of the money she finds on the ground. She collects it, and into the Tzedakah box it goes.
Will you be partaking of the Mitzvot of Purim? Did you know that Purim had these different mitzvot?