The Passover or Pesach commemorates the liberation of the Jews from Egyptian slavery. The celebration of the Passover remembers the exodus of their millions of forebears from Egypt. Jews celebrate the holiday for one week, performing many vital rituals, such as hosting a Seder, the traditional meal during Passover, and refraining from eating leavened bread.
The dates of the annual observance vary. This year, the Passover celebration is from March 28 to April 4.
Similarities and differences with Easter
Passover occurs in the Spring. The Jews celebrate the event by hosting a ”seder” or ritual dinner. Afterward, they abstain from eating any leavened bread for about seven days. Instead of leavened bread, the Jews eat unleavened crackers called matzo (matzah).
Holy Week ends with Easter, which is also a springtime holiday. Christians around the world celebrate it to commemorate Jesus Christ’s resurrection that freed the Christians from sin and death. Holy Week recalls the events that happened to Jesus Christ. Maundy Thursday, for example, recalls the Last Supper. Good Friday commemorates the crucifixion of Christ. Black Saturday is a day of mourning before the resurrection of Christ on Easter Sunday.
In some years, Passover and Easter occur in different months. But this year the two holidays overlap, as Holy Week and Easter will also happen from March 28 to April 4.
Looking back at Passover 2020
2020 was a tough year for everyone. Passover in 2020 occurred during the height of the coronavirus outbreak and many festive and religious holidays, events, and observances had to adapt to the health protocols. It forced many people to be in home quarantine to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The government limited or banned all forms of mass gatherings. They required people to practice physical distancing and avoid face-to-face contact.
These health protocols certainly affected the celebration of the Passover. They curtailed grocery shopping, Passover gatherings at synagogues, and traveling back home to attend a family gathering and sharing meals.
The Jews lament the loss of one of the greatest pleasures of Passover, the annual gathering of family generations.
They adapted to the restrictions imposed by the pandemic. Most of them hosted virtual seders. Even rabbis used technology by sending encouraging text messages. Many groups and organizations created sites, so they can host seders online.
The pandemic also brought forward creative talents. They created stories related to their tradition but more focused on the current health crisis. They forego some traditions. Enterprising people prepared Seder meals to sell online. Other Jews cooked traditional food on their own, thankful that their parents taught them how to make matzo and other food items.
For many, the age-old Passover tradition of ”washing the hands” which many overlooked, became one of the most important steps in the observance of the Passover.
At sundown before the official start of the Passover, Jews host a Seder, which is a special ceremony. Central to the celebration is the retelling of the story of the liberation of the Jewish ancestors. The celebration of Seder involves a festive meal on the first night of the Passover. The term Seder translates to order, which is very apt because there are 15 steps to be followed to celebrate Passover.
Family members read from the Passover storybook, Haggadah. They sing traditional songs. The dinner table contains a Seder plate with five symbolic items. There should be a spring vegetable, a bitter vegetable or ”maror” like romaine lettuce or horseradish. The plan must have a roasted egg, a roasted shank bone, and ”charoset” comprising nuts, honey, wine, and chopped apples.
Jews will also drink four cups of wine. They reserve the fifth cup of wine for ”Elijah.”
The Seder meal varies depending on the household. The meal may comprise beef brisket, salmon, or beef, and matzah. Throughout the eight days of the celebration, they forbid the Jews from eating leavened bread.
After the Passover, Jews around the world celebrate with a feast. Different countries have different methods of celebrating.
The ”Mimouna” festival which they start after sundown on Passover’s last day came from Morocco. Many Jewish communities, including Israel, are hosting Mimouna festivals. Hosts of the Mimouna event invite guests to their homes. They serve traditional Mimouna food and desserts, which include a variety of fresh fruits, assorted nuts, and marzipan.
Importance of observing Passover
Jewish families want to continue their unique customs and traditions and teach them to succeeding generations. Passover is one of the most important religious festivals for the Jews. It’s a special occasion to recall and retell the story of the Jews’ liberation led by Moses from Egyptian slavery. For 210 years, the Jews were slaves in Egypt.
They have celebrated Passover circa 1300 BC, and you can find its story in the Book of Exodus. God released them from slavery by sending ten plagues to Egypt. The plagues affected only the Egyptians.
For the Jews, celebrating the Passover affirms their faith in God and God’s love for the Jews.
Celebrating Passover 2021
This year, uncertainty still affects the celebration of Passover. While Covid-19 vaccines are already available, there are still some questions regarding the health protocols. Medical and healthcare practitioners still want people to avoid large social gatherings, and practice physical and social distancing.
Many families still consider doing virtual gatherings, while some are thinking of hosting small seders.
Covid-19 is still around. The Jews, like the rest of the people around the world, will still observe health protocols, even if they slightly relaxed the regulations this year.
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