Every year, Jewish communities across the world celebrate the annual holiday of Purim, to acknowledge the deliverance of the Jewish people from a plot to exterminate them in the ancient Persian empire 2,500 years ago, as recorded in the Biblical Book of Esther.

Also known in Hebrew as The Scroll, The Book of Esther is in the third section of the Jewish Tanakh and in the Christian Old Testament. It describes how Haman, the royal vizier to King Ahasuerus, planned to kill all the Jews in the empire, but his plans were foiled by court official Mordecai, and his cousin and adopted daughter Esther, who had risen to become the Queen of Persia. The day of deliverance has since become a day of feasting and rejoicing.

Purim 2016
Ultra-Orthodox Jews and a boy read the Book of Esther at a synagogue in the Israeli city of Beit ShemeshMenahem Kahana/ AFP

During the festivities, Ultra-Orthodox Jews listen to a reading of the Book of Esther, known as the kriat ha-megillah, usually in a synagogue, in which special prayers are said. It is also customary to donate money to the poor at Purim, a custom known as mattanot la-evyonim.

Various dishes are specifically prepared, including hamantaschen (meaning Haman's ears) which is a sweet pastry filled with nut butter. A large braided bread called a challah is also eaten and men are encouraged to drink to excess. On the day of Purim, it is common to greet friends and family by saying "Chag Purim Sameach", which is Hebrew for "Happy Purim". They also send each other baskets of food and drinks, known as mishloach manot.

Purim is celebrated annually according to the Hebrew calendar, on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar.

Purim 2016
An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man drinks wine as he walks down the street during the celebrationsAmmar Awad/ Reuters
Purim 2016
An Ultra-Orthodox Jewish youth prays next to a child dressed as an elephant, before reading the Book of Esther at a synagogue in the Israeli city of Beit Shemesh during the feast of PurimMenahem Kahana/ AFP
Purim 2016
An ultra-Orthodox Jewish girl dressed as a bride stands on a pavement during celebrations marking the Jewish holiday of Purim in JerusalemAmmar Awad/ Reuters
Purim 2016
An ultra-Orthodox Jewish boy dressed as a clown sits next to men at their yeshiva during celebrations marking  Purim in Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighbourhoodAmmar Awad/ Reuters
Purim 2016
Children play before reading the Book of Esther at a synagogue in the Israeli city of Beit ShemeshMenahem Kahana/ AFP
Purim 2016
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish children dressed in costumes walk outside during celebrations  in Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighbourhoodAmmar Awad/ Reuters
Purim 2016
An Ultra-Orthodox Jewish man stands under a bench during the reading from the Book of Esther at a synagogue in Bnei Brak, Tel AvivBaz Ratner/ Reuters
Purim 2016
Men and children read the Book of Esther at a synagogue in the Israeli city of Beit ShemeshMenahem Kahana/ AFP
Purim 2016
A man wearing a mask takes part in a parade marking Purim outside the Bialik Rogozin school in Tel AvivBaz Ratner/ Reuters
Purim 2016
An Ultra-Orthodox Jewish boy dressed in a clown costume takes part in the reading from the Book of Esther ceremony in Bnei Brak, Tel AvivBaz Ratner/ Reuters
Purim 2016
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish children play with their father as a man falls asleep on a bench, during celebrations at a yeshiva in JerusalemAmmar Awad/ Reuters
Purim 2016
A child reads the Book of Esther at a synagogue in the Israeli city of Beit ShemeshMenahem Kahana/ AFP
Purim 2016
An Ultra-Orthodox Jewish boy dressed in a clown costume takes part in the reading from the Book of Esther ceremony performed on the Jewish holiday of Purim at a synagogue in Bnei Brak, Tel AvivBaz Ratner/ Reuters
Purim 2016
An ultra-Orthodox Jewish girl dressed as a bride stands on the pavement during celebrations  in the Mea Shearim neighbourhood of JerusalemAmmar Awad/ Reuters
Purim 2016
A father and his children read the Book of Esther at a synagogue in the Israeli city of Beit ShemeshMenahem Kahana/ AFP
Purim 2016
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish boys dressed in Purim costumes take part in the reading from the Book of Esther ceremony in Bnei Brak, Tel AvivBaz Ratner/ Reuters
Purim 2016
Ultra-Orthodox Jews and children read the Book of Esther at a synagogue in the Israeli city of Beit ShemeshMenahem Kahana/ AFP
Purim 2016
Ultra-Orthodox Jews and children read the Book of Esther at a synagogue in the Israeli city of Beit Shemesh during the feast of PurimMenahem Kahana/ AFP
Purim 2016
An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man drinks wine during Purim celebrations  in JerusalemAmmar Awad/ Reuters