This night Jews begin to celebrate Purim - the most fun-filled, action-packed day of the Jewish year.
The jolly festival of Purim is celebrated every year on the 14th of the Hebrew month of Adar (late winter/early spring). This year it falls on March 11-12.
It commemorates the salvation of the Jewish people in ancient Persia from Haman’s plot “to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, infants and women, in a single day,” as recorded in the Megillah (book of Esther).
According to the Book of Esther, Haman, royal vizier to King Ahasuerus, planned to kill all the Jews in the empire, but his plans were foiled by Mordecai and his cousin and adopted daughter Esther, who had risen to become Queen of Persia. The day of deliverance became a day of feasting and rejoicing.
Purim is celebrated among Jews by exchanging reciprocal gifts of food and drink known as mishloach manot, donating charity to the poor known as mattanot la-evyonim, eating a celebratory meal known as a se'udat Purim, public recitation of the Scroll of Esther, known as kriat ha-megillah, usually in synagogue, reciting additions, known as Al HaNissim, to the daily prayers and the grace after meals.
Other customs include drinking wine or any other alcoholic beverage, wearing of masks and costumes, and public celebration.