Creating a Shushan Palace Atmosphere for your Shushan Feast

In the Purim “Spirit” of switching things around,  I suggest an annual “riff” on the description of King Ahasuerus’s fancy 7-day feast, including decorations in the courtyard of his garden in the palace!

1. Read Esther, Chapter 1:6 to your family:

“There were [hangings of ] white fine cotton, and turquoise wool, held with cords of fine linen and purple wool upon silver rods and marble pillars; the couches of gold and silver were on a pavement of variegated marble.” (Translation is from the Stone Edition of Tanach, Artscroll, Mesorah 1998-2003)

2. Then ask: “what can we do to make our own Purim feast look like we are celebrating in the king’s palace?” 

3. Guide your group to a box of items you have been saving or finding all year: colored tissue paper from the dollar store, gold streamers from a store’s after New Year’s sale, old jewelry to glue on,  inexpensive cheesecloth, waterproof paints and a set of thick sidewalk chalk for creating patterns,  old sheets or fabric remnants, wired gift bows from flower deliveries, etc.  that can be twisted or cut for your needs. Old clothesline to paint into golden cording! (Or twist gold tissue paper!) Consider perhaps a splurge of some gold fabric paint, a few very fancy gold netting fabric remnants, and be sure to have safe scissors, a stapler, pipe cleaners, string, etc. for fastening items.

If you can find some fake marble wallpaper, you could tape it to your floor with double stick tape, and there’s your fancy flooring or just use it to create a narrow “marble” border on your existing flooring.

(If you’re really enterprising, put together all this in a package and sell it on the internet as an “Instant Shushan Feast Kit!”)

Or, if you insist, sure, you can call a wedding planner and have professionals create a room size “chuppah” in your dining room or rec room that your kids can then decorate. Or you can rent a chuppah or gazebo of the right size for your number of guests if you’re planning a really huge event!  Who knows? This could spark an entirely new seasonal Jewish industry, to create indoor sukkot in spring as a counterpart to the outdoor sukkot of autumn! This could be very good for the local economy.

The only rules? Hangings of white cotton! Something that looks like Turquise wool. Chords of fine linen (check Goodwill stores for clotheslines, etc., first!!). Purple “wool” hangings (remember that colored tissue paper?), “silver” rods….which can be curtain rods painted with silver paint or improvise. And for the gold and silver furniture? Have fun with painting inexpensive garden furniture, or making chair covers out of old sheets or muslin for over your existing chairs, and paint each one in the design of a fancy silver or gold scrolled chair! For extra atmosphere, drape the cheese cloth (“fine white cotton hangings”) or white sheets or netting (think painted Mosquito netting!) across from one screen to its opposite, so you get a “tent” effect! If you happen to find one of those princess circular over-the-bed frames from which netting flows, well there you go! More palace hangings! The point is to think glam, and use paints and cheesecloth to make that glam happen! Yard sales should enable you to find just about everything you’d want to use, at very low cost! Colored purple and blue tissue paper from the dollar store could do it all! And remember to decorate a huge box for charity for the poor!

If you want to make something you can pack away to bring out each year, and if you have the space in a basement or extra closet to store these (or under a bed?), I suggest using at least four collapsible screens or folding wire garden latticework pieces that can be put up to create the fancy corners of your feasting area. Decorate the screens/lattices with the flowing white hangings that children can paint, and use silver duct tape as silver “rods” to connect the screens or lattices so you’ve defined and created a flowy, elegant, fun space. Definitely consider “tapestry” hangings on a wall and even signs that say, “This way to Shushan!  Follow the path to the Palace!” 

Or if you want to keep it simple, just tape that colored tissue paper from the dollar store to your ceiling and let it hang down whereever you want a “cotton hanging” or a draped wall.  You should be able to do your entire dining area for about $5 – $10, in about an hour, and all you’ll need is some tape. You’ll have all the white, gold, blue and turquoise you want! Your children’s imagination will fill in all the rest!

Of course, if you’re part of a large school or shul group, you could order items in bulk, and have a Pre-Purim gathering where every family makes their screens or lattices, even hammering them together from wood strips, and for $19.95 you rent one U-hall truck for one day to deliver the large items to each participating family. If your celebration will be at a shul or JCC, everyone can decorate the large space together, and all items can be stored away afterward, for the following year.

My suggestion? Enjoy the fancy space for fun lunches and dinners for the full seven days of Purim feasting just like King Ahasuerus did! Let school children eat their lunches inside the Shushan Palace. Have tea parties with your hamantashen! Invite the neighbors! Read the story! Have a ball! Your kids will love it! Everyone gets to be royalty for a day. And what’s the first thing that royals must do? Take care of the poor! So be sure to create a lovely gold decorated tzedakah box, made of a large box, where canned goods and toys can be collected before the Purim Feast! You’ll be proud to place it in the lobby of your synagogue or school to use year round!  Chag Sameach!

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