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Triple Holiday Celebration

March 15, 2009 at 3:01 pm
By Claire Weinberg '12

The Great Hall was filled with colorful decorations and even more colorful clothing, as students from all backgrounds (Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and none of the above) gathered to learn about these three traditions.

The celebration started off with an explanation of Purim by Rabbi Shosh Dworsky (essentially, an evil adviser named Haman attempts to make the king kill all the Jews, but is thwarted by the Jewish queen Esther and her honorable brother Mordechai). This was made more interesting by the fact that traditionally, whenever Haman's name is mentioned on Purim, anyone present has to boo and make noise, so the speech was punctuated by the rattling sounds of noisemakers that had been left on each table. "Also, we eat cookies," Dworsky added at the end (referring to the delicious three-cornered Hamantaschen that are supposed to look like either Haman's ears or his hat). This was followed by the Purimspiel, a reenactment of the Purim story that seemed very off-the-cuff and featured Moshe Lavi '11 as a rather excessively bearded Esther.

Next was the story of Holi, which involves Prahlada, the son of the king of demons, who was so devoted to Vishnu that he survived every attempt his father made to kill him. Eventually his father had him sit on a pyre in the lap of his aunt Holika, who supposedly could not be touched by fire, but because of his devotion, Prahlada survived while Holika burned to death. Holi is traditionally celebrated by dressing in white clothing and throwing water and then powdered paint on each other, but since this is Minnesota, only the powdered paint was possible. By the end of the event, everyone's faces and clothing were smeared with bright colors.

Next was a speaker about Eid Milad an Nabi (which has many different names depending on the country you're in), who informed us that it was not actually a festive occasion like Purim and Holi, but a time for deep reflection about the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad. The speaker explained how Muslims have only very recently begun to celebrate the Prophet's birth, since traditionally in Islam, birthdays are not marked at all. He was followed by a group of Muslim singers, who actually did seem quite festive, dancing around the lines of students waiting for food, which included Indian-style chicken, mango lassis, Hamantaschen and chai.

The evening ended with two dances. One was a Bollywood-style group dance, semi-coordinated and completely joyful, and the next was the largest and most treacherous Horah I've ever experienced, as over a hundred people attempted to form two concentric circles and spin around to the music. I would say that the celebration in general was about as much a success as the Horah was a failure (that is to say, complete). Almost everyone left with both paint and smiles on their faces.