What is Passover?

Passover is one of the most joyous and significant festivals of the Jewish community and is celebrated with great enthusiasm. The festival is not just a big occasion in Israel, but is also observed by the Jewish community settled in other parts of the world.

Passover is a Spring festival as it is celebrated in the month of March-April. The day is very important for the Jewish community around the world as it marks the freedom of Israelites from slavery in Ancient Egypt. It 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. Passover is known as Pesach in Hebrew, meaning to pass over.

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.

Passover Celebrations

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.

Foods Relished on Passover

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. 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.

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.

In 2018, Passover will begin on the evening of March 30 and will end on the evening of April 7.

Popular food and 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


Last Updated: 15th March, 2018