Purim and The Happy Prince

Ronnie –

I really loved your “Balagan” blog entry, and took the liberty of copying and printing it out (with a tiny bit of editing and adding your next day’s entry about Jayne Cohen’s contest) for the folks who attend informal Shabbat services at the independent/assisted living center where Carl’s mom now lives.  On March 18th, the services (which are held at 2 p.m. for those folks who can’t last through an “after sundown” service) are going to be abbreviated to accommodate a little Purim shpiel written by one of the volunteer service leaders who are sent courtesy of our Pasadena Temple.  Many of the people who attend these services are really “cultural” Jews, and attend because they’re looking for a comfortable Jewish community in this facility of more than 200 people, of whom about 60 are Jewish (anywhere from 4 to 15 regularly attend services, but many more come to the Highlands’ Chanukah celebration and Pesach seders – and even interested non-Jews attend those dinners).

Since we only have an hour in the space allotted for services, this first-ever Purim party will definitely NOT be a balagan, though all the “Esthers” will wear silver crowns and the Purim play Esther has a gold one (all are paper, and recyclable, of course!).  We will have graggers, but I think those with hearing aids (like myself, now) will use them gingerly.  Carl’s mother is already worried that people will drown her out every time her last name is mentioned (she is “Heiman” – pronounced “Haman”!)  We won’t be reading the “whole Megillah” (or any of it, come to think of it), but the Purim play should suffice.  I think your little resume of the Purim story will act as a brief for some attendees on the 18th (Jews and non-).  Of course, we end the event with hamantaschen for all, and special little shalach mones goodie bags with more hamantaschen..

This segues nicely into my thoughts on your last Friday’s blog on The Happy Prince, which made a deep impression on me as a child.  I had both the book and the record, which I, like you, played over and  over and over.  The other day, the phrase, “swallow, little swallow…”  came to me out of the blue, prompted by our preparations for Purim and discussion about shalach mones.   I couldn’t for the life of me remember where the phrase came from, but it resonated deep in my psyche.  You can imagine how happy I was to see your blog about it a day later(!), reminding me of the story’s name and author.  It brought back such flood of memories (I think this may have been the first story that made me cry).  I remember I SO wanted the swallow to fly south and save himself just as I wanted him NOT to leave the prince.  If I remember correctly, radio programs for kids, which I listened to, featured the Orson Welles reading around Christmas.  (Did you remember that Bing Crosby was the voice of the Happy Prince? See the whole thing at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EIPaS10r-T0 and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6JApl4-mgZ0).  In any case, I began thinking about how Chanukah, a relatively minor Jewish holiday, has replaced Purim, which – says my mother-in-law who grew up on New York’s Lower East Side speaking only Yiddish till she was 5 – used to be the major gift-giving holiday of the year for Jews.  Families baked goodies, including hamantaschen, and kids and their parents delivered these gifts – shalach mones – to friends and relatives throughout Purim.  Visiting was important.  What a wonderful tradition!  Why have we lost this?  Our Temple has recently instituted shalach mones  goodie bags, which people can order and send, with a “Purim wishes” card, to friends and family (or people can pick up their bags at the Temple).  Still sending and picking up aren’t exactly in the same spirit as human contact. What next – shalach mones over the social network?  Happy Pre-Purim 

Submitted by Carol Selkin (carol_selkin@sbcglobal.net):


So happy to be a tiny “part” of your Purim celebration! Hope it went well and that all the Esthers and Mordechais had fun and enjoyed the hamantashen and the quiet “balagan.”

I do remember that when I was a child Purim was a much more important holiday and resembled Chanuka/Christmas festivities. But in the United States we follow the corporate culture so often and that culture says it makes more sense to have everyone going to the store in the last quarter. So maybe that’s part of it.

As for The Happy Prince, I don’t remember it on radio because we listened to the record, at least once a week. I think my brothers and I had memorized the entire script and the accents of the bird, the mayor, the prince and the town councillors. It is a wonderful story; I recently have read versions of it to my grandchildren, who were all mesmerized and have asked me to read it over and over. It’s timeless and priceless.