As the story is told in the Megillah…
Back in the 4th century BCE, King Ahaseurus ruled the Persian Empire, and all the Jews were his subjects. After executing his wife, Queen Vashti, because she disobeyed him, he held a beauty contest to find a replacement. Mordechai, leader of the Jews, convinced his cousin, Esther to enter the contest without divulging that she was a Jew. Ahaseurus, entranced by her beauty, chose her to be his new queen.
Ahaseurus’s prime minister, Haman, hated the Jews. By decree, all people under the king’s rule were forced to bow down to Haman. When Modechai refused to do so, Haman convinced the king to order that all Jews be exterminated. The date for their execution was chosen by a lottery: the 13th of Adar.
Led by Mordechai, the Jews fasted and prayed for deliverance. He also asked Esther to intervene. She invited the king and Haman to a feast at which she revealed her true identity. The king’s love for her won out. The Jews were spared, Mordechai was named prime minister, and Haman was hanged on the 13th of Adar. On the 14th of Adar, the Jews celebrated.
On Purim, the story is read out in temple from the Megillah. Whenever Haman’s name is mentioned, feet are stamped and groggers (noisemakers) are twirled. On this day of celebration, adults are supposed to eat, drink, and be merry. Carnivals take place (my Hebrew school held a great one every year), and children dress in costumes while engaging in shalach manot, which involves going door-to-door and offering gifts of candy, fruit, and hamantaschen.
Hamantaschen are, of course, THE food of Purim. Triangular pastries patterned after and named for the three-cornered hat Haman wore, they can have various filling like poppy seeds, prunes, or apricots. I don’t care for poppy seeds, so I always make mine with prunes and apricots.