I took a class called Religions of the World in high school and it was one of my favorites. I love learning about the history and rituals important to not only my family, but also different groups of people. The Jewish holiday of Passover is coming up next week, and whether your family celebrates or not, it’s never a bad idea to try and expand your understanding of cultural celebrations.
Last year, we actually did a piece all about the history of Passover and how it is celebrated today. I urge you to read that in full, but this year we want to expand on it a little bit by focusing on when Passover occurs.
For a quick recap, Passover is celebrated each year to commemorate the events in the Book of Exodus, when God “passed over” the homes of the Israelites who had put lamb’s blood on their doors and spared the lives of their firstborn. This was the final in a series of ten plagues, and after this, the Pharaoh freed the Israelites.
When celebrating Passover today, Jewish people don’t eat anything with leavening in it. You may have heard of matzo, which is a type of unleavened bread that is often eaten during Passover. Seders, a special meal with multiple courses that also often involves the readings from the Haggadah, are also held during Passover.
Passover happens in the spring time here, and this year it will begin at sundown on Monday, March 25 and it will end the evening of Tuesday, April 2. The reason that Passover begins at sundown is because the dates on Jewish calendar begin and end at sundown (rather than using midnight to mark the start and ends of dates).
While Passover may fall on different dates every year (for example, next year Passover won’t begin until April 14), Passover actually is a fixed holiday according to the Jewish calendar. Passover always occurs on the 15th day of Nisan, the first month of the Jewish calendar. The months of the Jewish calendar are determined by the lunar cycles, which indicates why Passover can occur at different times in the spring from year to year.
The basis of the Jewish calendar on the lunar cycle also gives some insight as to why Passover lasts eight days in some places, rather than the 7 days that the Book of Exodus dictates. In 70 C.E. after the Great Revolt, the Jewish people were exiled from ancient Israel and began living in different areas. After this exile, an extra buffer day was added to allow time for the news of the new month (once the start of a new moon phase had been confirmed) to spread to the other areas from Jerusalem without the risk that people would conclude the observance of Passover early.
Hopefully this not only answers your question about when Passover will be held this year, but it also gives you a little more understanding into how those times are determined. To all those who will be celebrating, I hope you enjoy the time spent with your family and friends throughout Passover!
Do you celebrate Passover? What are some of your Passover traditions? Tell me in the comments!