Purim: Masquerades, hamentaschen and mishloah manot

Purim comes with the traditional hamantaschen cookies - something I'm still not crazy about, but that's a matter of taste.

hamntashen 88 (photo credit: )
hamntashen 88
(photo credit: )
The happy holiday of Purim is around the corner, and if you have small children, chances are you're busy getting their costumes sorted out. My girls want to be dressed up differently in school and in shul, so I'm not getting off the hook easily this year. This is the time I really wish I knew how to sew a splendid costume like other mothers do - especially since my oldest wants to be some weird character from the hit television show Ha'Shminia. To make your life easier, you can go for ready-made costumes but you have to be prepared to fork out some money. Little girls always like the Disney princesses, or any princess, fairy or bride costume. At Toys 'R' Us, you can find the "Magic Fairy" dress (NIS 100), a character from a children's movie that also has a photograph of the popular Children's Channel star Sofie Tsedaka. Shoshi Zohar makes Barbie-Fairy costumes with prices ranging from NIS 119 to NIS 139, including accessories such as a crown, jewelry, or veil. You can find these costumes at most toy stores. Another popular cartoon character is Sponge Bob Square Pants, and you can find his costume at various toy stores. At Kfar HaSha'ashuim, for example, this character - brown pants and a yellow top with Sponge Bob's face - is NIS 89.90. At this store, you also can find plenty of costumes for little kids and adults alike, and business is booming (I could hardly walk into the branch I visited the other day). For example, a Snow White costume is NIS 59.90; Little Red Riding Hood is NIS 49.90; Peter Pan, another popular character this year, is NIS 49.90; and Cleopatra is NIS 59.90. Popular cartoon characters are Batman, Dragon Ball Z and Spiderman, all selling for NIS 89.90 and InuYasha costing NIS 109.90. For little ones, you still have those Teletubbies selling for NIS 99.90 or animal costumes such as bears, Dalmatian dogs, rabbits, etc., starting at NIS 19.90 make sure the costume is comfortable and comes on and off easily. Adults can be monks, ghosts or skeletons - no masks of Likud politico Uzi Cohen were in sight this year and it really hasn't been replaced by any other pop-culture character. My kids suggested I should be Pnina Rosenblum, with a blond wig, pink outfit and lots of pink make-up! Maybe we'll see some bright red beards in the crowd this year, imitating that Hamas guy. For the religious public, there are costumes of Moshe, Joseph, Rabbi Ovadia Joseph, Zaka volunteers, the High Priest, Yemenites and Queen Esther. If you happen to have an Isracard credit card, you can buy a costume in Kfar HaSha'ashuim or Mega for only NIS 9.90 with the difference paid by stars (each shekel equals eight stars). You may not even need to buy a complete costume, as you may be able to transform something you already have at home with some accessories. At Kfar HaSha'ashuim you can find all kinds of hats, such as cowboy hats (NIS 29.90), or witch hats with hair attached. Other accessories include pistols, handcuffs, butterfly wings, wigs, masks, false teeth, and make-up products. At Toys "R" Us, you can find make-up kits from NIS 20 and up, all carrying the approval seal of the Ministry of Health. Very fancy false lashes can be bought at the Il Makiage stores (call 1-700-700-345 to find a branch near you). These lashes come in different colors, such as neon-green or with glitter, and are glued on top of your natural lashes. Prices vary from NIS 68 to NIS 90. Purim also comes with the traditional hamantaschen cookies - something I'm still not crazy about, but that's a matter of taste. You can get them with different fillings, in addition to the traditional poppy seed or date spread. The ones we liked best at our home were the hamantaschen from the Ben Ami bakeries, made with dough prepared with butter. The price for 250 gr. of these cookies is NIS 26; a half a kilo is NIS 49. Other delicacies made with poppy seed for the occasion are poppy seed brioche costing NIS 12, or a cake with poppy seed and pears priced at NIS 36. A triangle-shaped poppy seed pie is NIS 119. Also getting high marks were the hamantaschen from the Hexter bakeries, prepared with butter, as well. The different flavors here are poppy seed, nuts, dates, and chocolate. A 350 gr. box costs NIS 24. New at the Roladin bakeries this year are the little marzipan hamantaschen with different fillings, much to the liking of some family members with very sweet teeth. A box of 12 is NIS 29.90. Other special flavors you can get here are chocolate, made with butter, with an apple filling, or the ones made with cream and filled with hazelnuts and cinnamon. The price for these special hamantaschen is NIS 75-85 per kilo. Cheaper hamantaschen can be found aplenty at supermarkets. The Supersol chain, for example, has hamantaschen from Gidron, prepared on the spot. The different fillings are chocolate, nuts, poppy seeds, and, new this year, plum. A 500 gr. box is NIS 12. The Bonjour bakeries make hamantaschen with very crispy dough. In addition to the traditional poppy seed, chocolate and date, this bakery offers halva, strawberry, choco-rosemary, nuts, and coconut fillings. You can find Bonjour hamantaschen in the Coop Blue Square, Hatsi Hinam, Yad Yitshak, and other supermarkets around the country. The price is NIS 25 per kilo. A very special type of hamantaschen made with pasta dough is made by Pasta della Casa, available in selected delicatessen stores for NIS 35 a box. The pasta hamantaschen are filled with poppy seeds and ricotta cheese, raisins, and nuts and can be heated up and served with vanilla ice cream. The idea is cute, but the traditional cheese pastas are a lot better. Ready-made mishloah manot are available plenty in the supermarkets and bakeries. Elite has candy-filled boxes in different shapes, and Carmit has some candy boxes that come with a mask. A box with a cut-out InuYasha mask costs NIS 11.90. A gourmet gift box for adults can be assembled at Candyland stores; Belgian Kim's chocolate pralines, with lavender, ginger, lemon tea, or marzipan filling, for example, cost NIS 40 for a small box.