Purim 2021 marks a full year on the Jewish calendar since the covid lockdowns began in the West, and life as we know it was upended.
This holiday, typically marked by communal celebrations and big get-togethers, seems particularly challenging to celebrate alone or with a small group of family members.
But if the past year has taught us anything, it’s that when there’s a will, there’s a way. And since G‑d certainly wills it, it’s up to us to find that way.
While Purim has lots of bells and whistles, we will first concentrate on the four mitzvot of the day, each of which must happen, and then move on to some creative ideas of how to bring the jolly cheer of Purim into our homes.
1. Hear the Megillah (In Person)
On Purim eve and again during the day (this year, Thursday night and Friday respectively), it is a mitzvah to hear the Megillah read aloud from a parchment scroll. If you can safely and legally make it to synagogue, then great. And if you have a Megillah scroll and know how to read Hebrew, you are also in good shape.
If you have a scroll, but are not much of a Hebrew reader, you may want to have someone stand with you carefully reading along in a printed text, which has vowels, to help you through the rough patches.
If you do not have a scroll and/or cannot do all that Hebrew reading yourself, contact your closest Chabad rabbi ASAP to make arrangements for a safe megillah reading, which can take place outdoors or through an open door or window.
If all else fails, here is an article on which (less than perfect) options remain:
2. Give Charity to the Poor
If there was ever a time when people were in need of handouts, this is it! On the day of Purim it is a mitzvah to give charity to at least two fellow Jews in financial need. You do not need to leave your house to do this one. Send some cash to your rabbi and ask him to pass it on, or give directly to one of the many worthy causes who guarantee all money coming in on Purim day to families or individuals in need. For those unable to give locally, we have partnered with Colel Chabad to have your Purim funds distributed among the needy of Israel on Purim day.
3. Send Food Parcels
Here too, the mitzvah can be done contact-free. Every female should send a minimum of two food items to a female friend, and every male does the same for a male friend. There need not be in-person handing off of the item, so sending through a delivery service or just dropping off a nice surprise at your friend’s doorstep are perfectly acceptable ways to do this mitzvah. In fact, you do not need to ever handle the item yourself. Asking someone else to purchase and deliver the gift on your behalf is just fine.
4. Have a Festive Meal
Sit down with whoever is in your pod (or yourself) to a nicely set table, and enjoy a Purim feast fit for royalty. Since Purim is Friday, things are a bit different from usual. Ideally we do not eat a full meal in close proximity to Shabbat, to ensure that we approach the Shabbat table with a hardy appetite. So the best thing is to have a big brunch, starting before halachic midday (calculate when that is in your area).
5. Dress Up
A time-honored favorite Purim tradition is to masquerade. During this topsy turvy era, where everything has been turned upside down and inside out, dressing up like a clown or Queen Esther even if you are going to spend the day alone doesn’t seem so crazy anymore. So dig up that old costume from the basement, or order something online, and give yourself some extra Purim sparkle.
6. Zoom and Call
As we’ve all discovered over the past year, friends and loved ones are only a mouse-click away. Planning to have your meal alone, or know someone else who is? Arrange to have your feasts at the same time over live-stream.
Beyond mealtime, make sure to call as many friends as possible (especially those who are isolating or who have recently lost loved ones) and wish them a joyous Purim. Not only will you make them happy, but you’ll become more joyous as a result too.
7. Make Kreplach and Hamantaschen
When planning your Purim menu, remember the two classics, both of which comprise dough wrapped around a filling: hamantaschen (baked sweets shaped as triangles) and kreplach (dumplings that contain ground meat).
8. Read Lots of Purim Articles
The best way to keep the Purim spirit pulsating within you is to binge on Purim study, inspiration, and more. We’ve got boatloads for you to read and watch right here.
9. Decorate the House
Even if you will not have many revelers tramping in, Purim is still Purim. The amount and style of decorations is entirely up to you. If you’re the type to go all out, you can pick a theme, make online orders, and give your house an extreme Purim makeover. You can also print and decorate these coloring sheets to hang up around the house. Even hanging up a nice sign or a few streamers can be enough to give the place a festive feel and remind you that today is not just another Friday—it’s Purim!
10. Don’t Forget About Shabbat
On the subject of Friday, it’s important not to forget about Shabbat. So between all the activities you’ve just scheduled for yourself, be sure to leave time for bathing, cooking, cleaning, and everything else normally done to honor the Shabbat!