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Purim in the United States

Purim marks the Jewish people’s deliverance from a royal death decree around the fourth century BCE, as told in the Book of Esther. Many Jewish Americans celebrate Purim on the 14th day of the month of Adar in the Jewish calendar, which is in February or March in the Gregorian calendar. According to many sources, the celebrations begin at around sunset on the 13th day of Adar, while other sources mention that Purim is observed on the 15th day of Adar.

Is Purim a Public Holiday?

Purim is not a public holiday. Businesses have normal opening hours.

Traditional purim basket
Gift baskets containing food are given during Purim.
Gift baskets containing food are given during Purim.
©iStockphoto.com/sterling_photo

What Do People Do?

Many Jewish people, especially children, in the United States use this event as an opportunity to listen to the Megilla (or Megillah) to relive the events that are told about the story of Esther, Mordecai and Haman. It is customary to twirl graggers (Purim noisemakers) and stamp one's feet when Haman’s name is mentioned.

Many Jewish people give to the needy around this time of the year. Food baskets or food gifts are also given away. It is a time for people to celebrate and be merry. So some Jewish schools hold celebrations to remember the past and their heritage. Other groups or organizations hold Purim carnivals filled with activities, costumes, food and games.  Special prayers, particularly the Al HaNissim prayer are also included in evening, morning and afternoon prayers.

Public Life

Purim is not a public holiday in the United States. It is a relatively minor festival and some activities that are not allowed on many Jewish holidays may be permitted on Purim.

Background and symbols

Purim has been celebrated in the United States for many years. Old newspaper articles dating as far back as 1860 have reported about Purim festivals, where wealthy Jewish families would donate to charity.  It has been written in other newspapers, particularly from the early 20th century, that Purim was a day of cheerfulness and festivity among many Jewish communities in the United States.

One of the Purim symbols often seen on the day is the gragger (wooden noisemaker). Graggers are often made of wood and consist of a handle fixed to a cogged wheel.

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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