So if Purim is not, as Lauren Markoe reports, the Jewish Halloween, what is it? The Jewish Mardi Gras.
Mardi Gras is the culmination of the carnival season, when premodern Christians began dressing up in costume, overeating and overdrinking, and parading around in a demonstration of the world turned upside down. On Purim (which begins this Saturday), Jews dress up in costume, overeat and overdrink, and celebrate a holiday that’s all about them turning the tables on their oppressors. (See the Book of Esther.)
Both holidays are over-the-top enactments of secular liberation in anticipation of the serious commemorations of divine liberation to come. It takes Christians about a month to get to Easter, Jews a month to get to Passover. As in so much of the Judeo-Christian tradition, both sides travel parallel tracks, largely unaware of the parallels.