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Purim in the United Kingdom

Jewish communities in the UK mark Purim to remember the Jewish people’s deliverance from a royal death decree around the 4th century BCE, as told in the Book of Esther.

Graggers are noisemakers used during Purim.
Graggers are noisemakers used during Purim to blot out the name of Haman, the villain in the Book of Esther.
©bigstockphoto.com/motimeiri

Purim in the Jewish Calendar

Purim is celebrated on the 14th day of Adar, the twelfth month of the Jewish calendar. The date falls in February or March in the Gregorian calendar. If the 14th of Adar falls on Sabbath, Purim celebrations are usually moved to a different date.

Is Purim a Public Holiday?

Purim is not a public holiday in the United Kingdom. It is not subject to business or work restrictions, unlike some other Jewish holidays. However, some Jewish authorities consider it disrespectful for Jewish people to treat Purim as a normal working day.

How Is Purim Celebrated in the UK?

In synagogues all around the UK, Jewish communities gather to listen to a recitation of the Book of Esther, also known as the Megilla (or Megillah). Synagogues are often crowded during Purim. Some attendants, especially children, may be dressed in colorful costumes or wearing masks representing the characters found in the Megilla.

Whenever Haman, the villain of the story, is mentioned, the congregation may hiss, boo, or stamp their feet to drown out his name. Special Purim noisemakers, called graggers, are also used for this purpose.

Purim gift baskets called mishloach manot may be exchanged on this occasion. They usually include any type of food or drinks that are ready to be eaten and does not need any further preparation before consumption. According to tradition, the mishloach manot are meant to ensure that everyone has enough food and drink for the Purim feast.

Many Jewish people also donate to charity around this time of the year.

Why Is Purim Celebrated?

Purim is a joyous occasion commemorating the Jewish people’s deliverance from a royal death decree around the fourth century BCE, as told in the Book of Esther.

Who Celebrates Purim in the UK?

The United Kingdom is estimated to have the 5th largest Jewish population in the world, with just under 300,000 people practicing the Jewish faith in the country.

By far the largest British Jewish community is found in London, followed by those in Manchester and Leeds.

History of Jews in the UK

Jewish settlement in England can be traced as far back as the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066. The Jewish community outnumbered the Spanish and Portuguese communities in England by the 18th century.

Many Jewish families in Eastern Europe moved to England to escape persecution and hardship between 1881 and 1914. About 150,000 Jewish people settled in England, with large numbers staying at London's East End during that time. England continued to receive Jewish immigrants escaping persecution around the time of World War II (1939-1945).

About Purim in other countries

Read more about Purim.

Purim Observances

Note: Jewish holidays begin at sundown the day before the date specified for the holiday.

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday TypeArea
2010SunFeb 28PurimJewish holiday 
2011SunMar 20PurimJewish holiday 
2012ThuMar 8PurimJewish holiday 
2013SunFeb 24PurimJewish holiday 
2014SunMar 16PurimJewish holiday 
2015ThuMar 5PurimJewish holiday 
2016ThuMar 24PurimJewish holiday 
2017SunMar 12PurimJewish holiday 
2018ThuMar 1PurimJewish holiday 
2019ThuMar 21PurimJewish holiday 
2020TueMar 10PurimJewish holiday 

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