Passover, the festival of freedom, celebrates the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt.
It is one of the most important festivals on the Jewish calendar, and families around the world will celebrate today.
Passover or Pesach in Hebrew traditionally lasts seven days. This year it started yesterday evening (March 27th) and ends on the evening of April 4th.
The holiday celebrates the liberation of the Israelites, who, according to the Exodus, were slaves in Egypt for 210 years.
God promised he would release her – but Pharaoh continued to refuse.
God sent ten plagues demonstrating His power, each worse than the last, and warned that Pharaoh must release the slaves.
He turned the Nile into blood, sent locusts, fell sick with cattle and eventually killed the firstborn son of each family.
Before bringing about this tenth and final plague, God urged Jewish families to put lamb’s blood on the doors of their homes so that the plague would pass them by and protect them. That is why the day is called Passover.
After the death of the firstborn sons in the tenth plague, Pharaoh finally agreed to release the Jewish slaves.
Passover celebrations begin on the 15th day of Nisan, which means the date changes every year.
With Britain’s fifth largest Jewish population, an estimated 300,000 Jews will celebrate this special day in Britain.
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How is Passover celebrated?
On the evening before the festival begins, Jews have a special meal with friends and family called a seder.
Four cups of wine are placed on the table to remind the Jews of the four times God promised them freedom. You start with the first cup of wine and recite the kiddush blessing.
They leave the door open for Elijah as the Jews believe that Elijah will herald the coming of the Messiah.
The food is also known as special service. It contains the story of Exodus told from a book called Haggadah. Family and friends at the dining table take turns reading from this book and reading it aloud in both Hebrew and English.
You’ll enjoy a special Passover dinner that has six different components on a seder plate, each representing a different part of the story of when the Israelites were slaves.
- Chazeret – like a romaine lettuce or an endive, representing the bitterness of slavery
- Beitzah – a hard-boiled egg, the symbol of grief
- Charoset – a sweet, brown paste made from fruits and nuts that represents the mortar the Israelites made for building bricks
- Maror – a bitter herb made from horseradish, similar to Chazeret, they symbolize bitter suffering
- Z’roa – a lamb bone that represents the lamb brought to the temple the night before the Israelites left Egypt
- Karpas – celery sticks or parsley dipped in a bowl of salted water. These symbolize the spring harvest and tears when they were slaves
Also included in their meal are flatbreads called matzah.
When the Israelites left Egypt, they had made bread for the journey, but were in such a hurry to leave that they did not have time to raise the bread.
The book tells them what foods to eat, what order to eat, and what each represent.
While eating, everyone has a pillow to lean on. This reminds him of his inheritance and that they are now free people, not slaves anymore.
There are many songs in this particular service, children are encouraged to ask questions, and the family ends up reciting the Hallel prayer together as they drink their fourth and final cup of wine.
Seven to eight days after the first Seder meal, Jews will not eat foods that contain gluten, such as bread, cakes, and muffins.
While the first and last days of Passover are the main holidays, it is celebrated throughout the week to meet up with friends, family, go on excursions, and enjoy picnics together.
How would you wish someone a happy Passover?
To wish someone a happy Passover in Hebrew, you can say “Chag Sameach”, which translates as “Happy Holidays”.
You can also say “Chag Pesach sameach” which means “Happy Passover”.