It’s almost time for Passover, or Pesach, which is a beautiful Jewish holiday commemorating their freedom from slavery in ancient Egypt over 3,000 years ago. The eight-day festival is celebrated in the early spring, from the 15th through the 22nd of the Hebrew month of Nissan – which falls on April 14th through 22nd this year.
Whether you personally observe or have friends, family or coworkers who do, there are many ways in which you can recognize this very special occasion and make it a celebration for people of all ages.
There are so many great books that are perfect for reading aloud with children of all ages to help them understand the meaning of Passover. This allows you to share the story in an open and interactive way that encourages them to ask questions and learn more about the history. If you’d prefer, there are also many excellent films, including The Ten Commandments and The Prince of Egypt, that can convey the powerful message associated with the Exodus.
The Internet makes it easy to find printable activities for children (and fun-loving adults!) to do during the day to remind them of the many beautiful things about Passover. Additionally, it might be fun to spend some time making an afikomen bag with your kids (Kveller has a great tutorial on how to make one). Many a child has made it through a lengthy seder by dreaming of the moment when they can go hunting for the afikomen. This is a piece of matzah broken in half, placed in a cloth bag and hidden somewhere in the house. Typically, a prize is awarded to the person who finds it.
It took seven weeks for the Hebrew people to walk from Egypt to the foot of Mt. Sinai. This is recognized in the 49-day period between the first day of Passover and Shavuot, the festival that marks the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai. During this time, many will show their respect for this epic journey by verbally counting the days and reflecting on one of 49 sefirot (traits of the human heart). In order to help little ones with this tradition, Torah Tots has printable charts to help follow this observance.
As is the case with most holidays, food is very important on this special day. Passover is celebrated with a delicious feast called a Seder. A special plate is arranged as part of the retelling of the Exodus from Egypt and is comprised of six symbolic foods which typically include matzoh (unleavened bread), maror (bitter herbs), charoses (a mixture of apples, nuts, wine and cinnamon), beitzah (a roasted egg), karpas (a vegetable such as parsley or celery) and zeroah (often a piece of roasted lamb shankbone). Along with other sacred rituals, observers will also drink four cups of wine, each of which is consumed at a specific point in the Seder.
In recent years, more people have begun embracing interfaith seders. For example, the story of the Exodus is important in Christianity as well and, as such, some Christians have started to embrace the tradition. As interfaith marriages and friendships continue to grow, this trend will likely grow in popularity.
To all who celebrate, have a happy Passover! Chag Pesach Sameach!