American Purim is usually celebrated by many things, one of which is the Hamantaschen. First, let’s get a little background on the Hamantaschen. It is triangular and usually filled with jelly (though my mother ingeniously fills them with chocolate). The word “Hamantaschen” was erroneously thought to mean Haman’s hat, and shaped accordingly. Anyone who knows a bit of German will immediately negate this claim – the word taschen actually means “bags” in modern German, but a few centuries ago, it also meant pockets. So there you have it, Hamantaschen actually means Haman’s pockets. Hope yours aren’t too full of lint!
A few years ago, I spent several months in Amsterdam. Before Purim, I went to the local (really the only) Jewish bakery in town, and asked for Hamantaschen. The puzzled response, as though I was speaking a foreign language (well I guess I was) surprised me. I soon discovered that I would not be able to get Hamantaschen like my mother’s in A’dam, but rather a puffed treat that is the cookie made for Purim. I was a bit upset, but what could I do I was a long way from home.
So Kicheleh, in Yiddish (the Dutch word is Keisjeliesj – a similar sounding word), are fried dough with powdered sugar, and what is the standard Dutch Purim treat. They are shaped to emulate Haman’s ears. I made them last night for dinner, and all my friends argued they are better than Hamantaschen. I disagree, but to each is own.
On this blog we focus on food and its delights. However, for each holiday there is an underlying theme. The other common (and commanded) thing to do on Purim is to give gifts to the poor. As important as food is, there are more important things in the world. So eat your Hamantaschen, and kicheleh, until bursting, but do make sure that you give a something to those who need it most. Chag sameach!