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What Are Hamantaschen?

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Hamantaschen

Apricot, peach, blackberry and strawberry Hamantaschen

Ariela Pelaia

Hamentaschen are triangular-shaped pastries that are traditionally eaten during the Jewish holiday of Purim.

The Origin of Hamantaschen

"Hamantaschen" is a Yiddish word meaning "Haman’s pockets." Haman is the villain in the Purim story, which appears in the Biblical Book of Esther. In the story, Haman is the Grand Vizier of Persia and a rabid anti-Semite. When Mordechai, a Jewish member of the king's court and relative of Queen Esther, refuses to bow down to Haman, the Grand Vizier plots to have all the Jews in the kingdom massacred. However, Queen Esther and Mordechai discover Haman's plot and are able to foil it. In the end, Haman is executed on the gallows he planned to use on Mordechai.

Jews eat hamantaschen on Purim as part of the celebration of the holiday, which commemorates how Jews escaped Haman's dastardly plans. One explanation for the triangular shape of these pastries is that Haman wore a three-cornered hat. Another explanation is that the three corners represent Queen Esther's strength and the founders of Judaism: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Popular fillings for hamantaschen are fruit marmalade, cheese or poppy seeds. The poppy seeds are sometimes said to represent all the bribe money Haman collected.

Hamantaschen are also called "oznay Haman," which means "Haman's ears" in Hebrew. This name comes from the old practice of cutting off criminals' ears before they were executed by hanging.

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