(WCMH) — The Jewish holiday of Passover is set to begin at sundown on Friday, April 15 and will continue for eight days with its conclusion at sundown on Saturday, April 23.
Don’t know a lot about Passover? Here are answers to the questions you might have about this major spring holiday in the Jewish calendar.
What does Passover commemorate?
The spring holiday is in commemoration of the biblical story of the Jewish people’s exodus from slavery in Egypt and its freedom toward life as a nation, marking Passover as one of the most important holidays in the Jewish calendar.
The story of the events is told in the second book of the Hebrew Bible titled “Exodus” as it recounts the events of the prophet Moses leading the Jewish people out of Egypt.
The holiday begins with a meal called the “Seder,” literally meaning “The Order,” in which the unfolding of events are told and explained. Throughout the holiday, the biblical portions of the story of the Exodus are recited at synagogue.
Why is it called Passover?
The name Passover is an English translation of the Hebrew word “Pesach”, which means to pass over.
In the story of Exodus, the Egyptians encountered 10 plagues sent by God to force the Pharaoh to let the Jewish people be free of slavery.
The 10th plague sent by God was the death of all the firstborn males of Egypt. In the bible, it says the Jewish people received the instruction to smear lamb’s blood on the doorpost to mark their house, so God could pass over their houses and spare their sons, hence the holiday’s name.
What foods are eaten?
The most common food eaten for Passover is Matzah, an unleavened, flat bread that is a mixture of water and flour baked in the oven for 18 minutes. If it’s baked for more than 18 minutes, it’s not considered Matzah.
Millions of Jewish people around the world eat Matzah and refrain from eating any type of bread product for the whole holiday, which includes a full household cleaning and selling your non-Passover food.
The reason behind this custom is found in the bible, which states that when the Jewish people left Egypt, they were rushed out and the text indicates they left in haste before their bread had a chance to rise. This flat bread came to be known as Matzah and was eaten by the Jews while they wandered the desert.
Other foods eaten during the holiday, like bitter herbs or a sweet dip called Haroset, each symbolize an aspect of the slavery and Exodus in Egypt.
Jews from around the world have different traditional Passover foods, many based on meat dishes, potatoes, spring vegetables, and Matzah.
What are the traditions?
Outside of eating Matzah, the most practiced tradition for Passover is the meal to start the holiday called the Seder.
The Passover meal is one of if not the most celebrated ritual by Jewish people worldwide with its primary purpose to pass on the story of Exodus to the next generation.
Seder in Hebrew means order because the Passover meal consists of 14 distinct parts served in a specific order to recognize all the events of the Exodus from the slavery in Egypt, to the ten plagues, and to the miracles in the desert.
The parts of the Seder include blessings over different foods and wine, the telling of the story of Exodus, eating a Passover meal, and singing songs.
The most unique part of the Seder is the ninth section, which is a scavenger hunt for a piece of Matzah. After dinner, the Matzah is hidden by the adults for children to search and find. It’s tradition to give the children a prize after the Matzah is found.
To learn about each of the 14 parts of the Seder, click here.