Purim is celebrated on the 14th of Adar according to the Hebrew calendar, i.e. late February or early March.
Purim is the most joyful Jewish holiday. As tradition dictates, the story of Queen Esther is read from the Book of Esther (Megillat Esther in Hebrew). The Megillah is handwritten on a parchment in the form of a scroll. It is often housed in a wooden or metal case. Sometimes the cases are made of silver or in delicate filigree technique. It is an old Jewish custom, while reading the story, to make noise by the use of specially made wooden noisemakers, or las paletas in Ladino, when the name Haman, the antagonist of the story, is mentioned. Moreover, it is customary to organize masquerades, give charity to the poor, and read special prayers and the Megillat Esther in synagogues.
The story of Esther tells that Haman, the royal vizier, planned to exterminate the Jews. Queen Esther, Jewish by origin and second wife to King Ahasuerus, with the help of her uncle Mordecai, manages to reveal the plan and save the Jewish people. She was the first Jewess that saved the Jewish people from annihilation.
The name of the holiday comes from the Hebrew word pur which means lot – the story tells that Haman cast lots to decide on the date on which to exterminate the Jews.