Well its Purim and many of us taught that we eat hamantaschen because Haman, the villain of the Megillah, wore a tri-cornered hat but there is no evidence that Haman wore a triangular hat. You might also be surprise to learn that Swedes have a suspiciously similar cookie, called Napoleon’s Hats or Napoleonhattar, which are traditionally filled with almonds. That actually makes a certain degree of sense: Tri-cornered hats were popular in Napoleon’s time. In Hebrew hamantaschen are called Oznei Haman, or Haman’s ears; but Haman probably did not have triangle shaped ears either. So what’s the deal? Here is where tradition tends to make something very simple complicated.
The tricorned hat, or cocked hat, was a simple adaptation of the wide brimmed hat worn by Spanish common soldiers in the 17th Century. As these soldiers transitioned from axes and pikes to muskets, they began to turn up the brims of their hats to keep from becoming entangled with the musket as they marched. In northern Europe, these same soldiers, now Prussians, Russians, and French, also oppressed Jews so it is natural that we vilify this utilitarian piece of soldier’s kit by associating it with tyrant – Haman.
On a side note, another military group is also strongly associated with tricorned hats, Pirates, and there too is Jewish connection. Jewish pirates were typically Sephardim who in the years following the Alhambra Decree ordering the expulsion Jews from Spain and Portugal (1492). Fleeing Spain and Portugal, some of these Jews became pirates and turned to attacking the Catholic Empire’s shipping as both barbary corsairs and privateers bearing letters of marque from Spanish rivals such as the United Netherlands. When the Spanish discovered gold and silver in the Americas, this campaign became a profitable strategy of revenge for their expulsion and the Inquisition’s continued religious persecution of their Jewish and converso brethren in both the Old and New Worlds.
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