Posted on April 22, 2016
Today at sunset the Jewish festival of Passover (or Pesach) starts – and it continues until sunset on either Friday (April 29) or Saturday (April 30). The dates follow the Jewish calendar, so Passover falls on different dates different years – but typically sometime in March or April.
Scholars say that Passover started as a ceremony meant to keep a family's home safe. But the ancient Biblical story of an Exodus of Jewish people out of Egypt – after being liberated from years of slavery – gave the holiday a lot of traditions and meaning.
Passover is sometimes called the feast of unleavened bread. Matzo is flat, unleavened bread that is traditionally eaten during the week-long celebration. Many Jewish families remove all “chametz,” products that contain one of five types of grains and leavening, during a thorough housecleaning (a sort of spring cleaning). Other Jewish families segregate all the chametz, putting it in one cupboard that can be locked up during Passover. The food can be ritually sold to non-Jews, and then purchased back again at the end of Passover.
A special dinner is held on the first night of Passover (and sometimes other nights as well). Called a seder, the dining table is generally set with the best china and silverware; the youngest member of the family asks four ritual questions, prompting the telling of the story of the Exodus from Egypt; special foods are served with ritualized washing of hands, blessings, and other traditions.
|On a traditional Seder plate, there is a shank |
bone, an egg, bitter herbs, “paste” (a mixture
of apples, nuts, and wine), a vegetable,
and lettuce. Each item symbolizes
something important to the Passover story.
Learn more about Passover at Jewish Kids.
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