The Jewish calendar is based on the lunar calendar – the early Israelites were an agricultural people, thus celebrations and observances revolved around planting, harvests and other lifecycle events.
Passover (Pesach) is the spring holiday observed in March or April. It is the celebration of freedom from being slaves in Egypt and relates to the Pharoah being hardhearted and not letting Moses’ people go. He even had his overseers make it harder for the Israelites to make the bricks and mortar, which are symbolic in the Passover Seder.
In 2013, it is celebrated the evening of March 25; it lasts for 8 days (outside of Israel). (All Jewish holidays begin at sundown). There are two Passover Seders held on the 1st and 2nd night of Passover. Seder means order and there is a guide to the meal, a Haggadah, with blessings and songs that the family and guests sing and read.
There are a few important points:
· We are to pass the story onto our children and others. It is customary to invite guests and non-Jews to enjoy the Passover meal and break “matzah” with them.
· We are to remember our ancestors being slaves in Egypt and the miracle of the Red Sea parting.
· During Passover, we do not eat bread or leavening of any kind to commemorate the Israelites not having time to escape Egypt before Pharoah changed his mind about setting the Israelites free.
- Spring cleaning: a heavy duty cleaning of your home and office is required to remove all the leaven from your household.
- Inviting guests to a Seder or attending a seder: we remember that we were strangers in Egypt and always extend our hospitality to guests.
- At the seder, it’s customary to use special dishes and drink 4 glasses of wine and to eat while semi-reclining (because we’re free and not slaves)
- A seder plate, a matzah plate ( (Yafitglass) makes beautiful glassware, a beautiful Matzah Cover (SewGail makes these) Elijah and Miriam Cups (agruarts)
- Elijiah is the prophet who will announce that the Messiah has come
- Miriam is Moses’ sister who fished him out of the water as an infant, and much later led the women in a song after crossing the Red Sea.
On the seder plate: specific foods remind us of the bitterness of slavery, spring, and the sweetness of being free and the Passover sacrifice (the Angel of Death passed over the Israelites’ homes) and did not kill their firstborn sons in the last, horrible plague.
· It is a Spring holiday – it falls close to Easter (which is why I think it makes sense to have an Etsy holiday, too.)
· It’s a pretty big holiday: there’s a lot involved, cleaning, cooking, praying and saying memorial prayers.
· In addition to buying food, people may buy new (Spring) clothes, and/or accessories
There’s so much more to the holiday, this is just a thumbnail view.
Note, I will be closed for Passover Monday through Wednesday of this week.