Purim – to Theme or Not to Theme?


Frieda Schweky 



As a child growing up in the heart of Flatbush, Purim was my favorite day of the year. I remember seeing people delivering large ornate baskets of treats and dancing and even sometimes singing in the streets with a real feeling of ahdut. My mom assigned my sister and me to go around to all our neighbors to deliver mishloach manot. I was so eager to see what each neighbor had come up with for a theme that year. When I was growing up my family dressed up for Purim, but we never had a coordinated theme. The neighbors always did! And their themes weren’t ever simple, they were always super creative. The family members not only had matching costumes, but they also matched their mishloach manot! Right down to the type of candy in the baskets, everything would be right on theme. One time, members of a family in the neighborhood all dressed up as elderly people, complete with gray hair and walking canes. Their mishloach manot was a pill organizer filled with all different treats that looked like pills. I thought: when I have my own family we’re always going to theme-it-up for Purim! And so we do! Here I’m going to discuss some of my past themes, and some of my friends’ and Instagram followers’ themes. I hope to inspire you to put in your creative efforts this year! And if themes aren’t your thing or seem overwhelming, you can still have a perfectly awesome holiday without them. No pressure, just have fun!  



Esther Antar 


We love picking a theme and going “all out.” Generally, I pick the costume and get the materials and then my husband builds and/or spray paints it and he does the finishing touches to make it work.  


Depending on the year, we mostly do it together. As we start building things, we make adjustments to make it more practical. The homemade costumes are unique and it’s fun to see everyone’s reactions to them. I know I won’t get to choose the theme forever, because as the kids get bigger, they get more involved and express their own opinions. Last year I picked a Lego theme. and I let my daughter designate the colors for each family member. That way, she felt she was involved. When we did a pasta theme, she chose what shape of noodle she would be. We also match the mishloach manot to the theme. 


One year our theme was bath time, so my husband dressed up as a person in the tub with an inflatable bath around him, my baby was a rubber ducky, and I was a bar of soap. We  did s’mores one year, and a fast-food theme! 


Olgi Hashemi 


Themes are my favorite, so Purim is where I get to have fun with planning my family’s costumes and matching mishloach manot! I’d love to just share some of the themes we did, so hopefully I can inspire others to get creative or even just copy me! One theme was milk and cookies. My husband and I were the milk and cookie and my baby son was a cow. We did a safari theme when I was pregnant with my daughter and was feeling extra-large. I was an elephant, my husband was a man on a safari with a blow-up alligator, and my son was a lion. A cute one that I’m proud of is my garden theme. We were a garden gnome, gardener, beekeeper, bumble bee, and a flower in a flowerpot.  


Michelle Sabo 


I do a theme because I like how it looks when we’re coordinated. I also match our mishloach manot to our costume theme. The first year doing a family theme we did a bee theme because my son’s name is Abie. As my kids got older, I started to let them choose the theme each year. This is what we did so far fireman/dalmatian, superhero, knights/dragon/princess, sailors, circus, and a baseball theme (our baby was a mascot). 



Yours Truly, Frieda Schweky  


One year, my family members dressed as fruit. I was a giant watermelon slice, my husband wore a pineapple tee shirt and hat, and the kids were a bunch of grapes, a strawberry, and the baby was a pineapple. For mishloach manot I got berry containers, lined them with white and red checkerboard tissue paper, and filled them with a bottle of homemade strawberry milk, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and fruity candies.  


Another time we dressed up as farmers, which was easier and less expensive. We all dressed in flannel and denim from our closets, and those who had overalls wore them. All the girls wore pigtail braids. Our baskets were similar to the fruit theme with the berry carton and the checkerboard tissue paper, except this time I gave an apple and apple juice in addition to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  


Another affordable theme we did was French mimes. We all wore black and white striped shirts with black berets. The girls wore red tutus for the bottoms. My mom had glass jars with red tops that she wanted to get rid of, so I grabbed them and filled them with red and black treats with some red tissue paper.  


I don’t generally make multiple different kinds of baskets. That would really overwhelm me. My kids and I give out the same baskets. If they have a specific class mishloach manot exchange where they just need about six mishloach manot to swap, then I give some candy and snacks with a small gift like a hairbrush or a pop-it. And, of course, I include our custom family label with our theme for the year.  



Rivka Grazi 


Last year’s theme was really my best one yet – and I’m honestly not sure if I can ever top it! We did IKEA! My husband, kids, and I all wore custom blue sweatshirts with the IKEA logo on front and “Hej!” on the back in yellow with black bottoms and white sneakers. I made us each employee lanyards with yellow straps, including the IKEA logo, picture of each family member, and name. Instead of making my baby’s lanyard into a necklace like the rest, his was a pacifier holder. My mishloach manot was a cardboard box with IKEA labels, including hot dogs, buns, pastrami, mini cardboard boxes with condiment packets, and bottles of soda. We also included the instructions! There were no words, just the box contents and directions in pictures that were hard to understand. Everyone got a kick out of our costumes. They knew what we were right away from the bright blue sweatshirts and contrasting yellow lanyards. 


I had another original idea I wanted to share. We dressed up in rain gear with yellow hats and boots, etc. We got my husband a yellow umbrella hat. Mishloach manot included all things in the “if all the raindrops” song – including dots for gumdrops, a water bottle, lemon drops. The thing that tied it all together was a picture of my daughter Roslyn all dressed up with an umbrella and the words to the song on it. It was very cute. 


My sister-in-law once dressed her entire family as Six Flags workers! It was so funny. She somehow matched her mishloach manot, too. 


Final Thoughts  


Wow, the creativity out there is really amazing! The spirit of the holiday is so exciting. Since I am writing about six weeks before Purim, I’m not sure what this year’s theme will be, but I’m sure it will work out in the end!  


I think it’s important to note that having a simple holiday with mismatched family costumes and mishloach manot with candy and snacks in a bag with a premade label can also be super special. If you’re inspired by this article but have too much on your plate to do something elaborate this year, that’s fine! There’s always next year or the year after. Life has seasons, especially as parents. There are times we can focus on making extra creative things, and there are times when we just get by. Hashem loves you, regardless! So, HAPPY ADAR! 


Until next month, 

Frieda Schweky  


Frieda is an event and portrait photographer. Check Frieda out on Instagram @ friedaschwekyphoto. For photography inquiries or article topic suggestions email her friedaschweky@gmail.com.