Religious holidays hold great significance both historically and religiously in various cultures and communities across the globe. It offers an opportunity to commemorate religious events that occurred thousands of years back and it is a way to express one’s devotion to their respective faith.
Passover or Pesach in Hebrew is one such pilgrim religious holiday observed by the Jews and in this blog, we will delve into the rich history of this amazing and important Jewish festival.
Passover Meaning & History
As we know Passover is one of the most important religious holidays in Judaism and has a very interesting backstory that connects its followers to the divine.
The Passover commemorates the chronicles of the Israelites’ liberation from slavery in ancient Egypt and reference to this historical event can be found in the Biblical Book of Exodus and in other sacred texts of Judaism.
According to the biblical account, the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt for hundreds of years until Moses received a command from the gods to liberate them. Accordingly, Moses approached the reigning Pharaoh for the same, however, the Pharaoh refused to entertain the request. After a series of ten plagues, the Pharaoh was forced to agree to release the Israelites.
Throughout this plague period, the Israelites followed the lord’s instruction and marked their house’s door frame with lamb’s blood, resulting in the plague “Pass over ” every house marked with lamb’s blood.
As the Israelites fled Egypt in a hurry, they were unable to allow enough time for their bread to rise, leading them to consume unleavened bread (Matzo) during their journey through the desert.
If you are interested in knowing more about the Jewish Festival then make sure to check out our page on Jewish Festival 2023.
Traditions are deeply ingrained in human culture and are shaped by history, beliefs, and values. So, here are some of the major customs and traditions followed on the Passover holiday.
It is one of the important traditions of Passover. Before the Passover begins, it is customary to clean the house thoroughly to ensure that there are no traces of chametz (food products made of wheat, barley, oats, rye, etc.).
Hosting a Seder
Another significant tradition observed by every Jew across the globe. The seder means “order” in Hebrew, and is a festive meal that marks the beginning of the eight-day holiday. It is a time when family and friends come together to have a seder, as well as read Haggadah, recite prayers, and retell the story of The Book of Exodus.
An Extra Glass of Wine
It is customary to place an extra glass of wine at the seder table for the Prophet Elijah and keep the door open so that the spirit of the prophet would enter the house.
An important part of the celebration is the reading of the Passover Story either from the Torah or from the Haggadah.
The tradition of Afikomen is a central part of the Passover celebration. The word Afikomen means dessert, during the Seder meal, a piece of matzah is broken into two pieces, and the larger piece (Afikomen) which is meant to be the dessert after the seder, is wrapped and hidden.
The Children at the table are then assigned to find Afikomen, once it is found and returned to the table, it can be exchanged for a prize. A great fun activity for kids and adults alike.
No Leavened Bread
During the period of Passover, Jews do not eat leavened bread or chametz, instead, they eat matzah, a cracker-like unleavened bread. The practice is based on the biblical story of the Jewish exodus from ancient Egypt.
Traditional Passover Food
Food is an integral part of traditions. Some certain food dishes have a direct connection with the past and these dishes are specifically prepared to commemorate these occasions. The following is a list of traditional foods prepared for the Passover Holiday.
- Matzo: Unleavened bread made of flour and water.
- Bitter herbs: Typically horse radish or romaine lettuce
- Charoset: A mixture of apples, nuts, and wine.
- Gefilte fish: Often made from ground fish mixed with onions, eggs, and matzo meal.
- Matzo ball soup: A soup made with matzo balls, chicken broth, and vegetables.
- Brisket: A slow-cooked beef dish.
- Tzimmes: This dish features root vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, yams, and carrots, and dry fruits such as apples, prunes, cranberries, etc.
- Wine: It is customary that the Passover seder includes four cups of wine.
Passover or Pesach is an important Jewish celebration with a deep and rich history and this holiday throws an opportunity to bring family and friends together to enjoy the Passover seder dinner and indulge in traditional activities.
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Q: What is Passover?
A: Passover is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt.
Q: When does Passover start and how long does it last?
A: Passover usually begins in March or April and lasts for eight days.
Q: Why is matzo important during Passover?
A: Matzo is important during Passover because it represents the unleavened bread that the Israelites ate during their hasty departure from Egypt.
Q: What is the Seder and how is it celebrated?
A: The Seder is a ritual feast that marks the beginning of Passover. During the Seder, participants retell the story of the Exodus from Egypt and eat symbolic foods while following a set order of prayers and readings from the Haggadah.