Passover, also known as Pesach — the Hebrew word for Passover — is celebrated during the spring, the time of rebirth.
This holiday also celebrates social justice, freedom, and equality — very relevant concepts today. Here are eight common questions and interesting facts about Passover:
1. When is Passover?
The date of Passover changes each year because the dates are set by the lunar calendar. In 2021, Passover begins after sundown on March 27 and ends April 4.
2. What is the story of Passover?
Passover is known as the festival of freedom and celebrates the Israelites’ Exodus from slavery.
3. What is the biggest celebration during Passover?
The main ritual during Passover is a meal called the seder. This meal is typically served the first and second nights of Passover, and while every family's seder is different, most include traditional religious rituals, food, songs, and storytelling.
4. What is served at the seder?
A seder plate includes food symbolic to an aspect of Passover: You'll find a roasted shank bone (representing the Paschal sacrifice); an egg (representing spring and the circle of life); bitter herbs (representing the bitterness of slavery); haroset, an applesauce-like mixture with wine, nuts, and apples or dates (representing the mortar used by the Jews in Egypt); and karpas, often parsley (to represent spring).
You'll also find Matzah, a cracker-like unleavened bread, representing the food the Israelites took with them when they fled Egypt, along with red wine, as the Torah includes drinking four glasses of wine during Seder.
But the main meal will depend on the family tradition. Traditional seder dishes include matzo ball soup, gefilte fish, beef brisket, or chicken and potatoes.
5. What is the Haggadah?
The Haggadah is a book read during Seder telling the story of Passover and explaining various Passover rituals. Families hand down their copies of the Haggadah from generation to generation. Typically everyone around the table is included in a section of reading, question asking, or singing — some of which can get silly! The youngest child at the table often asks the traditional questions:
- Why does this night differ from all the other nights?
- Why do we only eat unleavened bread?
- Why do we only eat bitter herbs tonight?
- Why on this night do we dip twice?
- Why do we recline while eating tonight?
6. Why does Passover last eight days?
Passover is celebrated for eight days because although the Israelites left Egypt on the first day of Passover, they were chased by Pharaoh's army for a whole week.
7. Who was the first president to celebrate Passover at the White House?
President Obama hosted and attended the Passover every year from 2009 to 2016. It was the first Passover seder to be celebrated by a sitting U.S. President.
8. How do I wish someone a Happy Passover?
You can say "Chag Pesach samech" which means "Happy Passover festival" in Hebrew. (Keep in mind the "ch" sound is not pronounced like the ch in child, but like the ch in Bach.) Want to stick with English? Simply saying "Happy Passover" is great too!
Alicia Marshall is the publisher of Macaroni Kid Scranton, Pa.