I had to laugh when I passed by this shop window in Be’er Sheva, 2 months (!) before Purim. Besides the fact that these costumes couldn’t get much uglier, look at the expressions on the mannequins’ faces, especially the little girl! So much for Purim being a time of rejoicing!
In Israel, Purim is not a one-day holiday like it is in the US. Halachically (according to religious law) it might be only one day, but somehow Israelis stretch out the holiday for days and days, with all kinds of parties and celebrations for both children and adults. More than a month before Purim begins, storefronts display all sorts of Purim merchandise: costumes for all ages, makeup and disguises, all kinds of candies and treats, a huge assortment of gift baskets, pranks, caps and cap-guns, and in the Judaica stores, megillos, and megilla covers made of sterling silver, wood or even plastic or cardboard.
I was amazed to find out that in Be’er Sheva, even Bedouin children drag their veil-covered mothers to the stores to buy Purim costumes! It turns out that Bedouins attending Israeli (Jewish) public schools want to be part of the schools’ celebrations and costume contests like any other (Israeli) kid. The thing is, costumes in Israel cost a fortune. Even junky, poorly-made costumes were between 80 – 180 shekels (that’s $20 – $50 for a costume that would cost less than $10 in the US). But most costumes I saw in stores were $75 – $100! There was literally every possible cartoon character; political, historical, or sports figure; religious- or secular-themed costume that one could imagine.
Luckily for me, I bought a bunch of Purim costumes the day after Halloween for my grandchildren that live in the U.S., for only $2 per costume on clearance from an outlet center in New Hampshire. Army uniforms, cheerleader and princess costumes, and pirate outfits were all bargain-priced. Now I know: next year post-Halloween I’ll buy even more and bring them to Israel for my daughter to sell at bargain rates. I’m sure weary, beleaguered, bargain-seeking Israeli mothers will be delighted!