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Purim Costume

Costume worn by Gary Ray Howards of Racine during the Jewish holiday of Purim, 1957.
(Museum object #2003.20.2)

Each spring, usually in the month of March, Jews all over the world celebrate the annual festive holiday of Purim. Jewish custom includes holding carnival-like celebrations and performing plays and ceremonies. Ten-year-old Gary Howards wore this costume at a Purim carnival in Racine in 1957.

Gary Howards' mother, Annette, constructed this Purim costume by recycling fabrics originally intended for other purposes. The printed fabric, which includes images of Christmas trees, was first used as a Christmas window dressing in a display at the shoe store the Howards owned in Racine. Annette inverted the fabric when she constructed the costume for Gary so it would not appear to be a Christmas outfit. For the plain undergarment of the costume, Annette used parachute silk from World War II. She and her husband, Bernard, had both been Marines during World War II and this fabric was left over from their tour of duty.

The story of Purim is from the book of Esther in the Old Testament. Esther, the beautiful Jewish queen of Persia, saved the Jews from destruction and exile. The king of Persia, Ahasuerus, had an advisor named Haman who plotted the exile and destruction of the Jews. Esther bravely went to the king and told him of the plot, saving the Jews from a horrible fate. Rabbincal commentary, known in Hebrew as the Talmud, commands Jews to eat, drink and be merry to celebrate Purim. In modern times Jews have parties and donate to charities in observance Purim.


Posted on March 17, 2005

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