What is Passover [Pesach]

Passover, also known as Pesach is our major Spring festival. It’s celebrated in two very specific ways; a thorough top-to-bottom scrubbing of our home for an annual cleaning–known as the Pesach clean. Every room in the home is scrubbed, sorted, organized and washed with important emphasis on the removal of all bread. Only Matzos may be stored and consumed over Pesach. This rigorous cleaning is promptly stopped on the first night of Pesach to followed by a traditional feast known as the Seder.

Unlike Purim where the feast is relatively flexible, the Pesach feast is a set traditional menu eaten in a certain order, with specific foods/ingredients always present. We eat Matzos, Horseradish, Apples, Egg, Celery [dipped in saltwater] and we drink four glasses of wine. The foods represent different stages of plight for the Jewish people during their slavery in Egypt [for example the apple is served with nuts mashed to a paste and represents the 'mortar' the Jewish people used during building work when they were slaves and the horseradish represents the bitterness of slavery.] Religious families often eat these foods raw while modern Jews also adopt these ingredients into their Pesach feast, such as a horseradish-encrusted salmon as the main dish, or a baked apple for dessert.

Pesach is an historic celebration based on the Jews being released from slavery. It’s said that ten plagues, one after another were imposed upon the Egyptians to convince the Pharaoh to let the Jewish slaves go free. It took ten plagues before he agreed to their freedom. At the Seder table it’s traditional for the guests to represent the ten plagues. This is often done by making the guests wear a finger puppet, mask, or some other homemade decoration during a portion of the meal. It’s a light-hearted way to remember a bit of our history and children enjoy making these decorations for us.

The ten plagues were: Blood, Frogs, Lice, Flies, Death of Livestock, Boils, Hail, Locusts, Darkness, Death of the First born son.

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