I've written about groggers and Queen Esther before, but with Purim coming up in February in 2021, I wanted to put it all together in one post. Hopefully someone reading this will be able to use some of these ideas in the midst of the pandemic of 2020/21.
In Jewish tradition, children would go to the Synagogue twice in celebration of Purim, where the entire book of Esther would be read. (I trust my readers are familiar with this story, if not, read it in one sitting and get familiar with it.) It is one service where everyone is encouraged to be noisy. As the story is read, every time the name of Haman is mentioned, everyone from young to old, stamp their feet, shake their groggers and make noise to drown out the wicked man's name. I think it is a brilliant way of getting children to engage in the story and become curious to learn who this Haman is. I'm not sure that is why the tradition developed, but it's a great by product.
Groggers and Church
For starters, if you aren't Jewish, you could ask your pastor if you could do something similar in your church service the Sunday before Purim. It would be similar to doing a children's sermon. Here's the plan:
- Pick a section of Esther to read that has Haman's name in it a lot. Or put a few sections together with his name in it.
- Have kids make groggers in your kid's program the week before.
- Briefly sum up the story in the church service (Bad guy Haman doesn't like it that a Jew won't bow down to him. Bad guy devises plan to get all Jews killed. Good lady Queen Esther risks her life going to the king and begs for the life of her people.) With social distancing kids will need to stay in their seats. Otherwise, we usually let them come to the front and sit on the floor around the leader.
- Instruct the adults that as you read, when they hear the name of Haman they can shake their keys if they have some, stomp their feet and shout boo along with the children. Children, of course, can shake their groggers.
- Then do it. When you finish reading the portion, recap that Esther prayed and then went to the king and her people were saved.
Acting Out Esther and the King
Make a throne room, a throne and a scepter. The videos below show you how. Then have the kids take turns being Esther and the King. Esther has to walk in to the throne room. If the King extends his scepter, she is allowed to come before him. If he does not, the "guards" will take Esther away. Help children to understand that Esther was risking her life to do this.
How to Make the Throne Room Wall
How to Make a Throne
How to Make a Scepter
Free Bible Images has excellent pictures for telling the story of Esther. You can print them up or download them into a Power Point presentation. There are ten different sets of images to chose from.
There are several other traditions that have developed for the celebration of Purim which are beneficial for children to learn to do.
- Giving to the needy (caring for the less fortunate). Special emphasis is placed on this the day of Purim. You can take a meal to someone in need, give to a local food bank, volunteer at a soup kitchen, or donate to a charity that helps others. Learning to give is a fundamental Christian principle, and this is a great time to teach it. Because the Jews were almost killed by Haman, they were all endangered together. From that, the teaching is stand together, and that includes helping those among you to stand.
- Send gifts of food to friends (people within your Christian circle of friends). This teaches caring within the body of Christ.
- For other Jewish traditions, check out this link.
- I also made "scepters" for the kids to take home from dowels and wooden dowel endcaps. I got the idea from Debbie Jackson's blog Bible Fun for Kids. Here is the post with her instructions for making the scepters. I left off the wood doll pin stand and used a standard end cap for the "ball" at the end of the scepter.