Last Updated: 11th April, 2019

What is Passover?

What is Passover?

Passover Celebrations

Passover is a Jewish festival which is celebrated for eight long days. It is celebrated by the Jews to pay homage to God as it is believed that the Lord became their savior by freeing them from slavery. The day of Passover is very important for the Jewish community around the world as it marks the freedom of Israelites from slavery in Ancient Egypt. Passover is known as Pesach in Hebrew, meaning to pass over. It also commemorates the story of Exodus. This big occasion is the gala time for the Jewish people and is celebrated with great enthusiasm. Passover is a Spring festival which usually falls in the month of March-April. In 2019, Passover will begin from the evening of 19 April & will end by 27 April. It's on the way and is making masses excited as streets are being decorated and all the way you can feel the essence of the lively environment. The Passover usually starts on the night of the fifteenth day of the month of Nissan as per the Hebrew calendar. There is a ceremony of Seder that is performed on the first two evenings of Passover celebrations.

The origin of the Passover dates back to ancient Egypt and is described in the book Exodus. At the time, Israelites were slaves to the Egyptian Pharaohs and were leading pitiful lives. After many decades of slavery, God finally sent Moses to the Pharaoh with a message to free the Israelites; however, the Pharaoh did not pay any attention to the command of God. Enraged, God cursed the Pharaoh with ten plagues, which were deadly enough to cause massive destruction to the Egyptians. On the last plague, God paid a visit to Egypt, where he killed all the Egyptian firstborns and passed over the houses which belonged to the Jews. Thus, the festival got its name and from then on is celebrated as Passover. The festival commemorates the freedom of the Jewish community as a nation under the leadership of Moses, which is believed to have taken place around 1300 BCE.

How is Passover celebrated?

Passover a Jewish festival

As the festival is one of the most important among the Jewish community, the festivities are elaborate and are stretched over a period of eight days. The first and last days of the festival are legal holidays in Israel and on these two days, no work is permitted. Many people take the entire week off as this gives them the time to enjoy the festival to its fullest by traveling around and meeting family members and friends. At night, people light the holiday candles and kiddush, which are mouth-watering holiday meals comprising a variety of ingredients is enjoying during both day and nights. On the four or five days, which fall in the middle, people are permitted to work. Nevertheless, these days, which are known as Chol Hamoed, are also marked by festivities.

Days before the festival, people thoroughly clean their homes. This is done to make sure that no traces of the leavened bread, which are known as chametz, are left in any corner of the home. While some people burn the chametz, others hide it in an area where it cannot be seen. This tradition also dates back to the Exodus. After God's visit to Egypt and killing of the firstborns, the Pharaoh relented; however, the Jews were chased out of Egypt. The Jews were left with such haste that they were not even given enough time to wait for the bread dough to rise, which is leaven. It is for this reason that Jews on this day refrain from eating leavened bread. On the contrary, Jews eat unleavened bread, which is known as Matzo.

However, Jews in a few countries follow their own traditions of celebrating Passover. In Ethiopia, some Jews buy new cookware and dishes and destroy the old ones. This is done to signify their hopes for redemption. As Argentina lies in the Southern Hemisphere, Passover is celebrated in fall, while in North America it is observed in Spring. ‘Seder on Top of the World' is the world's largest Passover celebration and it takes place in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal.

What kinds of foods are eaten on Passover?

Passover Food Seder Plate

On Passover, the family get-together is arranged where lavish meals are served. These meals comprise an assortment of delicacies, some of which are unique to the Passover.

  • Seder Plate
    1. Z'roa
    2. Karpas
    3. Haroset
    4. Hazeret
    5. Beitzah
    6. Maror
  • Matzah - A special unleavened bread.
  • Wine - Four glasses of red wine.

What is The Seder?

Passover Ritual Meal

Sedar is a huge ritual meal which is served on Passover. In Hebrew, Sedar means “Order”. Sedar comprises a number of foods such as lamb bone, hard-boiled eggs, salt water, herbs, Matzah, and haroset, which is a mixture of apples, wines, and nuts. This delicious meal is savored by family members along with friends.

Why Matzah and What's So Great About It?

Matzah Bread

Matzah is a very significant food, which is a must on every Sedar table. This bread, which is unleavened, is like a crunchy cracker and is prepared from flour and water. A unique tradition associated with matzah is that before a family sits down to have its Sedar meal, a piece of the matzah is broken and hidden. After the family is through with its meal, the children are given an opportunity to look out for the hidden piece of matzah. The lucky child who finds the hidden piece is rewarded either with candy or money.


 

Popular food and drink during Passover?

Drink during Passover

Matzah - Dry, cracker-like bread
Maror - Bitter herbs
Charoset - Sweet paste made from nuts and fruit
Karpas - Leafy green vegetables
Beitzah - Hard boiled egg
Zeroah - Shank bone
Four cups of wine

What is the proper greeting for Passover?

Passover Greetings

The greeting for Passover is simply "Chag Sameach!"
This is a Hebrew expression which translates to "happy holiday" and is typically used for any celebratory Jewish observance, including minor holidays like Hanukkah and Purim.


When is Passover?

In 2019, Passover will begin on the evening of April 19 and will end on the evening of April 27.

Jewish Year 5778 : Sunset March 30, 2018 – Nightfall April 7, 2018

Jewish Year 5779 : Sunset April 19, 2019 – Nightfall April 27, 2019

Jewish Year 5780 : Sunset April 8, 2020 – Nightfall April 16, 2020