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David Lissner
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Top Chicago spots for Purim goodies

Purim cookies from Zelda's.

Purim cookies from Zelda's, $5.99 for two.

The Jewish festival of Purim begins at sunset Wednesday, March 7. Like many Jewish holidays, Purim commemorates yet another occasion when somebody tried but didn’t quite succeed to wipe out the Jews — in this case a Persian tyrant in about 360 B.C. — but this holiday is more festive than most, a boisterous Mardi Gras-like celebration marked by costume parties and the reciting of the Megillah (the Purim story) during which the name of the principal villain, Haman, is drowned out by noisemakers.

There’s lots of drinking, Purim being one of the few occasions on which the historically abstemious Jews let loose. An ancient Talmudist, who — just coincidentally — also happened to be a vintner, directed that people should drink on Purim until they can no longer distinguish between “cursed is Haman” and “blessed is Mordachai” (one of the good guys).

One charming Purim custom is the giving of mishloach manot, baskets of Purim goodies, to friends and family. Tradition holds that an appropriate gift contains at least two types of ready-to-eat foods. Here are a few Chicago places offering Purim gift baskets or suitable items for assembling your own.

  • Manny’s in the South Loop offers hamantashen (triangular Purim pastries), other baked goods and all kinds of deli delights.

  • Hungarian Kosher Foods in Skokie offers a wide selection of kosher candies, baked goods, wine and more.

  • Zelda’s Sweet Shoppe in Skokie offers a wide selection of kosher Purim-themed candies and desserts, as well as prepared gift combos.

  • Illinois Nut & Candy in Skokie sells gift baskets, Purim-themed chocolates and other kosher treats.