The Children of Israel have an interesting capacity to approach difficult circumstances with wry humor. This may be a survival trait given by G-d to see them through their often turbulent history. The holiday of Purim offers a fine example of this trait in action.
The events of Purim center around a plot by an evil government minister to massacre the Jewish population in Persia, the empire in control of Judah at the time. Despite the alarming subject matter, Purim is a light-hearted, almost carnival-like festival that focuses on personal heroism and the faithfulness of G-d to deliver His people.
As with many Jewish holidays, the festivities involve a retelling of the story so that it might never be forgotten. Often this is done in the form of a Purimspiel, or a play, usually performed by the children of the community. Purim is the holiday in which children take center stage. There is a festive party where the children and adults come dressed as characters from the story, or in fun costumes. The principal food is a triangular cookie called hamantaschen, usually filled with prune or poppyseed, which is said to resemble the tri-cornered hat worn by the villain. (Click here for a printable hamantaschen recipe.)
During the telling of the story, the audience is fully involved, cheering loudly whenever the hero and heroine are mentioned and booing enthusiastically at the name of the villain.