It’s almost here. Passover, one of the most important festivals in the Jewish calendar, is fast approaching! Find out when it all begins, how to celebrate and all the other important details.
Passover 2018 begins on Friday, March 30. In the Torah, Passover – or Pesach in Hebrew — begins on the 15th of Nissan, the day in the Jewish calendar on which the Jews departed from Egypt, according to The Independent. The festival is traditionally observed for eight days, so the 2018 festival will end on the evening of April 7. The celebration is pretty important to people of the Jewish faith. “Even the most secular Jews, who might not celebrate any other festival – they might not fast on Yom Kippur, or go to Synagogue on Jewish New Year,” Raymond Simonson, CEO of the north London Jewish community center, JW3, said. “If there’s one festival they’ll do it’s more likely to be Pesach than anything else.”
It celebrates the Jews’ exodus from Egypt. During Passover, Jewish people observe how Moses freed the Israelites from slavery under the reign of Egypt’s Pharaohs, according to the Torah. After the Egyptian-raised Moses found out he was really Jewish, he asked the Pharaoh to release his people from bondage. After he was told no, Moses warned that Egypt would be visited by ten plagues — blood, frogs, gnats, flies, blight of the livestock, boils, hail, locusts, darkness and the death of the first born, according to the BBC.
It’s from that last plague – the death of the first-born — that Passover gets its name. God told Moses that the Israelites should mark their doorposts with lamb’s blood, so God could “pass over” their homes and spare them. The Pharaoh ultimately granted the Jews their freedom, telling Moses and his people to go at once.
On the evening before Passover begins, a special service called a Seder takes place. Family and friends get together to eat a special meal that references the story of the Jews’ exodus from slavery. The meal consists of (according to Toria Avey): maror (bitter herbs, usually horseradish, to remind people of the bitterness of slavery), salt water (the tears of the slaves), charoset (a sweet paste made of fruit and nuts, symbolizing the mortar the slaves used to build the pyramids), zeroah (shank bone, representing the Passover sacrifice), beitzah (a hard-boiled egg, symbolizing life and birth associated with the spring), and karpas (a leafy green vegetable that symbolizes hope and redemption). Also, it’s required to drink four cups of wine throughout the dinner.
No muffins, cupcakes, or cakes. The Israelites left Egypt in such a rush, according to the Book of Exodus, that they didn’t have time to let their bread rise. So, Jewish people eat unleavened bread during Passover, which is what is known as matzah. During Passover, Jewish people abstain from eating any “chametz” (or forbidden, leavened foods) during the holiday. For many Jews, the holiday means getting rid of any leavened products from their home, per Toria Avey, including burning it (biu chametz). Others just sell the chamertz off, instead of wasting food.
During the Seder, many Jewish children play a game in which the afikoman (half of a matzah that is kept between two other matzahs) is hidden. The child who finds the afikoman at the end of the meal wins a prize. Chag Sameach!