Growing up, Purim was my absolute favorite holiday. I went to a yeshiva for elementary school, and Purim was always a big hit there. The school put on a quasi-carnival with raffles and games, leaving me covered in shaving cream after attempts to shave a balloon without popping it. Everyone dressed up in lavish costumes and celebrated the extraordinary story of Esther overcoming the evil Haman to save the Jews from yet another attempt to destroy the nation.
But my favorite part of this holiday? The Purim gift baskets called “mishloach manot” which were large decorative baskets filled with all the best candy, snacks and other goodies. I looked forward to this day every year. I would come to school and trade baskets with my friends, stocking up on enough sugar and carbs to last a lifetime.
Now for anyone who has ever seen a true Purim gift basket, you know that it is an art form, and a booming business. These baskets can cost a fortune, especially if you plan on sending them out to all 400 close friends and family members. Unfortunately, I have not participated in trading these baskets since I left yeshiva. When I was younger my Russian parents were not sure how to go about crafting mishloach manot that could compare to the ones I got from my friends. Instead, we would go to the nearest 99-cent store and buy a couple of hologram paper gift bags and discounted snacks (who doesn’t love Bamba?). So I guess I’ll take this time to apologize for my lack of knowledge and etiquette on how to give and receive a mishloach manot. To all my childhood friends that were left with a little bag of random candy that was probably the last pick of the litter, after handing over a beautiful basket filled with finger-licking food to me, I am sorry. Just know, it’s the thought that counts.
This year will be the first time I celebrate Purim after many years. I am going to go to a “South of the Border” themed party at Chabad at my school. While I am not sure there will be an exchange of gift baskets, I am looking forward to dressing up in a costume, my second favorite part of Purim. Cowgirl Rashel? I think that has a certain flow to it. Hag Sameach and happy snacking.
Rashel Noginsky, 22, whose family emigrated from St. Petersburg, Russia, was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and is studying Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University.