5774 is a leap year. The good news is that we have two months of Adar, two months of rejoicing! But does that mean that we also celebrate Purim twice?
The simple answer: no. If you look closely at your Jewish calendar, the first month of Adar (Adar Alef or Adar Rishon) lists the 14th of Adar I as “Purim Katan” or “Little Purim.” This acknowledges the date, 14 Adar, but we do not celebrate Purim on that date: no megillah reading, no mishloach manot, and no festive meal.
You may wonder why the first month of Adar gets such a shabby treatment. Purim is fun! Why put it off? First, tradition: we know from the Mishnah (Megilah 6b) that we’ve been reading the megillah in the second month of Adar since at least 200 CE. Secondly, the Gemara tells us that Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel taught that we read the megillah in the second month of Adar so that we are celebrating the redemption of Purim closer to the redemption of Passover.
This reminds us that Purim is not just about costumes and skits and merriment: it is also a festival of redemption, “warming us up” for the great redemption of Passover.
And as for Purim Katan: we are still forbidden to mourn or to fast on 14 Adar I. In a leap year, then, we have a warm up to the warm up, a double opportunity to be extremely well prepared for the spiritual growth of Passover.