13 Passover Facts To Feast Your Eyes On
Brush up on your knowledge of one of the biggest days in the Jewish calendar with this epic list of interesting Passover facts!
Called Pesach in Hebrew, Passover is a huge part of the Jewish calendar. With roots that go back thousands of years, Passover connects ancient Jewish history with the present day, and is a great opportunity for families and friends to celebrate their heritage and traditions. Because it's such an old festival there's a lot to it - so make sure your knowledge is up to date with this list of 13 fast facts for the feast of Passover!
If you'd like more about religious festivals, you can check out this Diwali quiz, this Ramadan quiz, or even these Easter facts!
1. Passover is one the most important festivals
...In the whole of the Jewish calendar! It's right up there with Yom Kippur, Hannukah, Purim and the others. The Jewish calendar is packed full of festivals of all kinds, but Passover is definitely one of the most important.
2. It's a spring festival
Passover begins on the 15th day of Nisan, the first month of the Jewish calendar. When this is according to the typical calendar most people use changes, because the Jewish calemdar is based on the Moon. The celebrations last for seven or eight days, depending on where you live. It usually starts sometime in April!
3. It celebrates the Exodus
Passover marks the story of Exodus, where God was said to have freed the Israelites from slavery under the Egyptian Pharoahs. In the story, Moses frees his people and plagues are visited on the Egyptians until Moses separates the Red Sea and the Israelites eventually escape Egypt and settle in Mount Sinai. Passover is a reminder of the terrible hardships the Jewish people have gone through, and the start of their freedom. It's also a good reason for a big feast!
4. The Haggadah
The story of Exodus is told every Passover by Jewish families, in a service called a Seder. The story is read from a book called the Haggadah (or Narration). Everyone has a turn in reading from the book, and often some parts are read in Hebrew as well as English.
5. The Seder Plate
No festival is complete without food, and the Passover Seder has a very special and symbolic menu. There are 6 items on the Seder plate, and each one represents something important for the Jewish people in the Exodus story. These include bitter foods to represent hardship, herbs to represent spring, or a sweet paste to represent the mortar the Israelites used in Egypt.
6. Don't forget the Matzah!
The Seder plate isn't the only type of special food prepared for Passover. Matzahs are also made, and are a kind of flat, unrisen bread. At the start of Seder they are broken and the largest piece is hidden somewhere in the house. The kids then get to hunt it out, and the winner gets a prize!
7. There's a special job for kids
During the Passover meal there are traditionally Four Questions asked of the guests. The answers show why Passover night is so special for the Jewish people, and why it's not just a normal dinner. The questions are usually read out by the youngest child who can.
8. No cakes allowed!
And it's not even just cakes! Nothing bready that's risen is allowed, only unleavened bread can be eaten. So no cakes, biscuits or even pasta allowed! Now this might not sound like much of a party... but there are plenty of other delicious snacks to eat, and cakes will come back once Passover ends. We promise.
9. Pets can eat the right food too!
The leavened foods that aren't allowed to be eaten during passover can now be avoided by pets too! A very smart company has started selling pet food that doesn't contain any of the things forbidden during Passover. So don't worry, your cat or dog can join in the celebrations!
10. New Haggadahs
We already mentioned how traditionally stories are read from books called Haggadahs. Well, many Jewish people write their own Haggadahs about all sorts of different topics, not just the Exodus story. They could be about other parts of Jewish history, or more modern concerns like climate change.
11. Passover at the White House
Barack Obama was the first President to hold a Passover meal in the White House, and continued to all through his Presidency. Passover dinners at the White House dinner mixed in some new Haggadahs and readings too, and guests drew similarities between the slavery of the Jewish people and the slavery of African Americans. Which goes to show that Passover isn't just about ancient history!
12. Not just about Exodus
Passover always takes place during spring, which is a time of harvest and new beginnings. So of course there is lots of importance on Jewish history and the old stories, but it's also a time to look to the future and appreciate nature. Some eco-minded Jewish people have taken it as a great opportunity to celebrate the natural world!
13. Passover for all!
Like many festivals, Passover is also about giving and supporting your neighbours. It's a time that many people invite those who have less to share their meal with them, or even donate to charities. Often Rabbis organise the donations, and money take at Passover benefits lots of people and worthy causes all around the world - not just amongst the Jewish community!