Happy Adar! I absolutely love the month of Adar, it’s so festive and fun. And, having a toddler in the house, really brings the excitement home. Yesterday, I opened the door to find my little cherub of a child wearing a clown mask, party hat and twirling a gragar (noisemaker) around her head. Now, she doesn’t know that Mommy is scared of clowns, so I swallowed the lump of fear and let her wear the mask as much as she wanted. Fortunately, she couldn’t very well drink her sippy cup of chocolate milk while wearing the mask, so it wasn’t on her face for long.
Listening to her sing “Chag Purim” to my parents answering machine made me so happy. She mangled the words a bit, but was on tune the entire time. My parents were thrilled when they heard the message, and we danced around the living room singing and jumping around to these new Purim songs.
And, with the Purim countdown in full swing, I’ve been thinking about Mishloach Manot. Those delicious little baskets of food that we give to our family and friends on the holiday. I used to want to be one of those women, the ones who’s creative enough to pull together elaborate, over-the-top, exciting themed Mishloach Manot.
The first year of marriage, I went all out and bought Burberry bags with faux leather handles, and did a whole chocolate theme. The bag was filled with assortments of Hershey’s chocolates that my Dad bought during the post-Halloween candy sale, a fresh chocolate cake and a recipe for a delicious, alcoholic chocolate beverage. I was pretty impressed with myself and thought, one day when we have kids, these themes can get more and more interesting.
Then, the following year, we discovered mold in the third bedroom and spent almost 3 weeks living outside of the house while we got the problem fixed. It was a nightmare as Baby J. was only 3 months old. There was no way I was thinking about Purim, let alone a theme Mishloach Manot. I sent DH out to the store to buy pre-packaged Mishloach Manot and we gave his parents and Grandparents (A”H).
Last year, I decided to go all out and even joined this Purim group on Facebook where people shared ideas and suggestions. I ended up deciding to work the Mishloach Manot around Baby J’s costume, which was her favorite insect: the Ladybug! She looked absolutely adorable in the costume, and I decided the theme should be our Ladybug’s garden. I went to the local nursery on Emek Refaim and, for a small fortune, bought used, empty flowerpots. Then, I filled the flowerpots with a wad of ripped up red tissue paper and two different colored pieces of construction paper to resemble leaves. I put a freshly baked chocolate chocolate-chip muffin in the center, added two strawberry flavored lollipops as “flowers” and a handful of edible gummy snakes. Then, I used cellophane to wrap them up and tied them with bows. The entire process was pure torture! I hated every single minute of it, from assembly through the fighting with cellophane, which I am convinced is my nemesis. At the end of the day, they didn’t look like what I had imagined them to be. I was pretty disappointed. I have to admit that, while I’m a creative person, it’s merely with manipulation of words and not with the handling of a pair of scissors. Apparently, cutting a straight line was not something I mastered in Kindergarten, as I discovered while wrestling with cellophane.
And now, a year later, I’m back to thinking about Mishloach Manot themes and I’m drawing a complete blank. It could have been easy to do a whole baby theme since my due date is right after Purim, but I think that’s too much of an Ayin Harah and I’m superstitious that way. If the baby came before Purim, then I would definitely just buy baby bottles, fill it with some candy, and call it a day.
But, I’m still hanging in there with my big ol’ belly bump and nary an idea in my head as to what would be a good theme.
My parents had the right idea growing up. Every year, we gave out the exact same Mishloach Manot, to the point that all our friends and family expected and looked forward to our deliveries.
It was actually very smart and savvy of my folks. First, they took advantage of the fact that my Zaydie (A”H) owned a paper goods store on the Lower East Side.
And, about a month before Purim, my parents would go downtown and pick up plain, brown paper bags with handles. Then, my Mom would get started on baking the chocolate cakes and soon, our freezer was filled to the brim with loaf tins of chocolate cake. A few nights before Purim, my Dad would bring home a giant box of small Kedem grape juices and put them underneath one of the chairs in our dinning room. And then, the item that made our Mishloach Manot uniquely ours, was brought home a few days before Purim.
Brilliant right! No one ate pineapple in Queens in March, and yet, we gave a whole one away with our Mishloach Manot! It was so simple, yet unique. A chocolate cake, bottle of grape juice and a pineapple. After Megillah reading, we would break our fast and then all us kids would assemble around the table and decorate our brown paper bags. We would color on them and write our friends names, so that when we loaded up the trunk of my Dad’s gigantic, maroon Oldsmobile, we could quickly identify who got which bag when we arrived at our friends houses.
I get nostalgic thinking about the Purim of my youth. My Mom was – and still is – a no-fuss type of woman and she was very content with our Mishloach Manot. She didn’t feel the need to impress with her baking skills or her creative acumen, and she is extremely creative, artistic and a darn good baker. She didn’t give into the peer pressure to outdo herself year-in and year-out, she just simply and deliciously fulfilled the Mitzvah and went on with her day.
This year, I think I’m going to adopt my Mother’s attitude and not give in to the peer pressure to come up with a wow-themed Mishloach Manot. I honestly don’t have the strength, the time, nor the creative and artistic talents to put something amazing together.
And so, I’m planning on filling a couple of plain, gold bags with some nosh. I’m going to put away my mixer and pick up a box of pre-baked hamentaschen and put 2 in a little plastic baggie. And then, I’m going to hand Baby J. all the markers in the house and let her decorate each bag as she pleases. Because as cool as it would be to put a pineapple in each bag of Mishloach Manot (it would totally break the bank though, pineapples here are super expensive) I think it would be much more memorable and enjoyable for her to literally leave her mark on each and every Mishloach Manot that leaves this house.
Hopefully, she’ll stick to the bags and spare our walls!
Are you planning your Mishloach Manot theme? Are you more simple, or do you like to go all out and impress? Comment Below!