You’ve probably seen foods labeled “Kosher for Passover,” but may not know much else about it, leaving you to stare at a cereal box and pretty much think, “What is Passover?”
Passover is a Jewish holiday that falls in the springtime, often near the Christian Easter celebration. In Israel, Passover lasts seven days, but can be recognized for eight days elsewhere depending on one’s beliefs. It’s one of the most widely recognized Jewish holidays in the Hebrew calendar.
It celebrates the freeing of ancient Israelites from slavery in Egypt, though the story is actually far more intense–albeit in a dark way–than the Hebrews merely escaping. According to the book of Exodus, it’s believed that God put ten plagues on the Egyptians until the Pharaoh would release his Jewish slaves, and a lot of it sounds like it’d make for a freaky horror movie today: in the first plague, all the water in Egypt turned to blood (yikes!). The tenth and final plague was considered the worst–the slaughter of the firstborn. The Israelites were instructed by God to put lamb’s blood on their doors, and God would “pass over” their homes and their firstborns would live. I don’t know about you, but this all seems like pretty frightening stuff!
That plague was enough to finally convince the Pharaoh to free the Israelites, who were worried he’d change his mind–so they fled before their bread was done leavening. (Which was a smart move, because it turns out they were right!) That’s why no leavened bread is eaten during Passover. In many religious households today, all “chametz” (leavened food made with certain types of grains) is either removed, sold, or sealed off to recognize the holiday before it starts. Many households use different dishes and/or cooking utensils around this time to avoid contact with leavening agents or grains. Matzo is a symbol of Passover and generally eaten around this time, as it’s generally made solely from flour and water.
Passover is celebrated with a seder, a feast that occurs in a special order. At a seder, a family will often read from a special text called the Haggadah, which details each step of the meal–there’s 15 of them!
So, when is Passover? This year, Passover begins tonight (Friday, April 6), and ends next Saturday night (April 14). If you’re celebrating, you’re in good company: Dianna Agron, Mila Kunis, Adam Levine, and Drake are all recognizing the feast too!
Are you celebrating Passover? Do you have any special Passover traditions? What’s your favorite Passover food? Let us know in the comments!