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Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

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hamantaschen are triangular cookies filled with prunes, poppy seeds, jam, or even chocolate chips. These cookies are served at Purim, the holiday celebrating the Jewish people’s deliverance from serious danger in the remote past. The word likely derives from the German Mohntaschen, poppy seed pastries, though some ascribe its origin to a combination of Homen—the Yiddish name for Haman, chief minister of the biblical Persian king Ahasuerus and enemy of the Jews (Esther 3:7)—and tash (pocket or bag) from the Middle High German tasche. Although in Israel these pocket pastries are called oznei Haman (Haman’s ears), elsewhere the cookie’s three corners are said to represent Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the three patriarchs whose merit saved the Jews. Hamantaschen have also been said to represent the wicked minister Haman’s hat. In any case, eating these cookies symbolically commemorates Esther’s cunning in saving the Jews from Haman’s proposed annihilation in fifth-century b.c.e. Persia.