Los Angeles, California, March 20, 2011 - Children watch a clown create balloon sculptures during a Purim carnival at Stephen S. Wise Temple. The temple is a reform synagogue with a strong Persian congregation...Purim is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people living in the Persian Empire from genocide at the hands of the political advisor, Haman, to the Persian King Ahasuerus, as documented in the Talmud's Book of Esther. It is celebrated by the reading of the Scroll of Esther or the Megillah, sending food gifts to friends, giving charity to the poor and celebrating with a festive meal. During the reading of the Megillah, when Haman's name is mentioned (which happens 54 times) the congregation engages in loud roars and the use of rattles in an effort to blot out his name. Today children and some adults dress in costume and masquerade to celebrate Purim. The custom is believed to have originated during the 15th century by Italian Jews influenced by the Roman carnival. One idea for the costumes is that God disguised his presence behind many of the natural events that happened during Purim. ..Nowruz, the Persian New Year, marks the first day of spring and the beginning of the Persian calendar. It is marked by Haft Sin, or the seven S's, which include sabzeh (wheat, barley or lentil sprouts growing in a dish - symbolizing rebirth); samanu (a sweet pudding made from wheat germ -symbolizing affluence); senjed (the dried fruit of the oleaster tree - symbolizing love); s?r (garlic - symbolizing medicine); s?b (apples - symbolizing beauty and health); somaq (sumac berries - symbolizing the sunrise); serkeh (vinegar - symbolizing age and patience). Each of these items are laid on a table in the home. Other items include decorated eggs, symbolizing fertility, a mirror symbolizing cleanliness and honesty and a bowl with goldfish, symbolizing life within life. .