Purim is the popular Jewish occasion for costumes, carnivals, and comedy. According to the book of Esther, there once was a scheming villain named Haman who plotted to destroy the Jews of Persia, casting lots (purim) to determine the date. But the Jews were saved by the resourceful Jewish queen and her uncle Mordechai. To commemorate the holiday, the Purim story is chanted aloud in the synagogue from a Hebrew scroll (megillah), accompanied by noisemakers (groggers), songs, and high spirits.
Passover (Pesah or Pesach), a week-long festival celebrating the deliverance of the ancient Israelites from slavery in Egypt, is perhaps the most popular of all Jewish holidays. The name is taken from the biblical book of Exodus: God "passed over" (pasah) the Israelites, sparing them from plague. Passover also marks the beginning of springtime.