Ultra-Orthodox Jews celebrate the festival of Purim in Beit Shemesh, Israel Getty

Jewish communities around the world are celebrating the annual holiday of Purim with food, parties and costumes – a celebration sometimes referred to as the Jewish Mardi Gras because of its carnival-style festivities. This year, the holiday begins on the evening of 23 March and ends on 24 March.

It is both a celebration and remembrance of Jewish survival in the ancient world. The story of Purim is told in the Book of Esther, an old biblical text, and details a plot by the prime minister of Persia to carry out genocide on the Jews under his authority.

What happens?

Purim is celebrated on the twelfth month in the Jewish calendar and often falls in March. Jews commonly greet each other by saying "Chag Purim Sameach", which is Yiddish for 'Happy Purim'. They also send each other "mishloach manot" – baskets of food and drinks.

Various dishes are specifically prepared for Purim, including hamantaschen (meaning 'Haman's pockets') – a type of sweet cookie filled with nut butter. A large braided bread called a challah is also eaten.

Another annual event, the Tel Aviv Purim Zombie walk, features people dressed up as zombies walking through the streets of the city. In 2016, the Zombie Walk will take place on 25 March from 9pm local time, from the corner of Ben-Zion Boulevard and King George.

There is a public recitation of the Scroll 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, known as mattanot la-evyonim.

A group of Jewish girls in fancy dress collecting money for their school during the Jewish holiday of Purim in north London Getty